Secret Passion 7-12

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Secret Passion by TINA! & Satina
Episode 7: Their First Time
Arnav glanced out the corner of his eye at Khushi as he turned into the quiet, dimly lit lane that led to the apartment building. She was uncharacteristically quiet, her eyes focused on the darkness outside. Keeping one hand on the steering wheel, he caught her hand in his, bringing it to his mouth.
"You okay?"
His touch shook her. She avoided his deep, penetrating gaze, her body tensing as he brushed a kiss across her knuckles.  Several more open-mouthed kisses followed across the pads of her fingertips. He smirked against her pliant skin, almost deliberately taking his time.
Heat shot through her. She was already confused and his mind-numbing touch was perplexing her even more. She was about to admonish him and his insatiable appetite when he lowered her hand, keeping their fingers entwined.
All her protests fell away.
Khushi stared at him with quiet astonishment. Arnav Singh Raizada looked the same as always: his features sharp and unforgettable, his hair perfectly groomed, and a designer suit covering his lean, masculine body like a sleek glove.
She swallowed as she silently observed him, lost in those passion-filled moments earlier today: she brazenly straddling him while he guided her hips, lowering her up and down on him rhythmically. The memory struck her with force. She could almost feel his hands clamped down on her, urging her along. Could almost taste his kiss. Could almost sense him filling her to the hilt...
The intimacy they'd shared--more times than she could count by now--felt so different lately. He seemed so different.
"Arnav..." she began hesitantly, trying to rein in her tumultuous emotions.
He turned to face her but just then his cell phone beeped. He ignored it, focused on her.
"What is it?"
Khushi opened her mouth but the phone sounded again. And then again. Seven missed calls came in rapid succession.
Arnav frowned as he checked it, his eyebrows knitting together. "What were you asking?"
"If you're...staying over tonight." mumbled Khushi, smoothing down her magenta sari with her free hand.
He shook his head, waving his flashing phone at her. "Can't. Di."
What he'd told her previously about his older sister was enough to answer all her questions. Khushi's heart tugged as she read the worry glinting in his dark brown eyes, the deep-seated turmoil. She squeezed his hand.
A small, sad smile crossed his chiseled face. "Aren't you relieved? I won't be with you tonight, demanding more and more from you. You'll get to actually sleep."
A few days ago she would have agreed with that statement without a second thought--would have happily welcomed a night away from him and his intense hold on her. But now... Disappointment and waves of concern for him dominated everything else.
She didn't know what awaited him in that gilded mansion he lived in. How much it would break him. And yet the shadows of the past wouldn't let her admit everything so easily.
"You know it's not like that," she insisted, needing him to know that truth at least. "Not anymore."
As he shifted the gears and parked along the curbside, Arnav looked like he wanted something more from her, but his phone buzzed again, its ring sounding shrill to Khushi's ears. Silencing it, he turned back to her, staring so intently she fidgeted in the leather seat.
Arnav knew she had no idea how irresistible she looked, appearing so demure even after all they had shared. He wished he could stay. He wanted her with him. Always. But life was not that simple.
Without warning, his hand plunged into her long hair and urged her toward him. Khushi softly moaned as his lips crashed down onto hers: hard and all consuming. She could feel his eyes tracing over her as he pulled her closer yet. It was like he couldn't get enough.
Neither could she--her mouth slipped open, a thrill shooting through her as his tongue stroked hers, entwining intimately. All thought extinguished. All that mattered was him: whole, masculine and solid against her. Her hand clenched on his thigh as he kissed her again and again, angling her head for better contact.
When he finally released her minutes later, her breathing was ragged. Her lips felt slightly swollen.
Arnav leaned his forehead against hers, his eyes burning into her. "You're mine, Khushi Kumari Gupta. Don't you dare forget it--ever."
He kissed her hard and firm and then settled back in the driver's seat, his fingers turning white as he gripped the steering wheel.
Khushi could barely move, let alone respond. She felt limp, and strangely incomplete. Brushing her fingers across her reddened, trembling lips, she murmured softly: "Arnav?"
His hands tightened on the steering wheel. His body tensed as he heard the confusion, the ring of unfulfilled passion in her quiet voice. When he met her gaze, it was as if he was staring at his salvation. His eyes were haunted, his expression darkening as he realized he could not give in--not this time.
"Get out. Now. Unless you want to be ravished right here in this jeep for the whole damn building to see, get out."
A shiver racked her at that low, husky tone. She wanted to touch him--she ached to--but she knew better. He wouldn't be able to handle it. It was only because of his sister that he was leaving it unfinished between them. Khushi knew with 100% certainty that if not for those insistent calls coming even now, he would picked her up in his arms and taken her upstairs. And made her his. Again and again as if sealing the bond between them.
She took a deep breath, her hands fisting from the longing to go to him. "Call me if you need me," she whispered, stepping outside.
His bark-like laugh was unexpected. Its hollowness doubled her growing worry. "When do I not need you?" Arnav asked, his tone laced with sarcasm. "See you tomorrow morning, Ms. Gupta."
Their eyes met again, saying more than mouths ever could. And then with that same sad half-smile that pulled at her insides, he was gone, a cloud of dust the only evidence he'd been there.
*****
Khushi was still lost in her thoughts as she entered her apartment, locking the door behind her. She walked blindly to the sofa, sinking down on the same cushion he always sat on. Bringing her knees up to her chest, she curled her arms around the draped saree. The thin chiffon reminded her swiftly of Arnav's teasing smile, his hot glances and even wink during the board meeting.
How carefree he'd been... Until those calls.
She bit down on her bottom lip, wondering what was happening at the Raizadas' mansion at this very minute. Such worry for him felt new and unfamiliar. Khushi had never imagined that she would one day feel so strongly for him--the man she had hated from their first meeting in Lucknow... the man who had propositioned her... who had taken her innocence and seized every aspect of her life--all with a neat, legally binding contract.
And just like that, she was thrown into the past, to a dark night that she had fought for so long to forget. If only...
It was very late when Khushi arrived back home from Sheesh Mahal, her mind still engulfed with images of Arnav Singh Raizada and the contract she'd thrown at his face. The nerve of the man. Did he really think she would stoop so low? That because she was not as rich as him, she had no morals and would happily fall into his bed?
Anger sizzled hot and overwhelming as she pushed open her bedroom window and sneaked inside. She had expected the house to be quiet by now, but outside her room, she could hear footsteps and the soft murmurs of conversation.
And then Buaji suddenly swung open the door, her face lit, even as tears streaked across her weathered cheeks.
"Khushi!"
For a second, Khushi was sure she'd been caught. How could they have missed her running off to Sheesh Mahal--all because of a phone call? She'd been steeling herself for the questions that would surely follow when Buaji rushed towards her, embracing her tightly.
"Oh, Sanka Devi. I am so so happy! All our prayers have been answered."
"Buaji? What happened?"
Her aunt was smiling through her tears as she leaned back, practically jumping on her feet. "Payal... her marriage has been resolved. It's happening in two days now. Can you believe it? It's a miracle!"
Khushi began to smile and then her face fell, losing all color. Her cousin's marriage resolved overnight? ASR's taunting words came to her mind: "I'll have your sister's wedding completed and even get your family's mortgaged property returned, but I do nothing for free. I am a businessman after all and a very successful one at that."
Her heart dropped as she realized it. She had to tell everyone--had to tell them about Arnav Singh Raizada and his revolting contract.
But the rest of the family was almost giddy with excitement. Her aunt and uncle--Amma and Babuji to her for all purposes--were no longer weeping, smiles on their faces as they ate their first bites of food all day. Payal sat with a warm blush, glowing as the neighborhood kids swarmed her.
The house that had been dark and dead since the groom's family had left was suddenly bright and joyful again. It seemed to glow. Everything in Khushi pushed at her to scream, to tell them the truth. But her heart... her heart wouldn't allow her to utter a single word. How could she take their happiness away? What was her own misery in comparison? They had done so much for her. Accepted an orphan into their home and into their hearts. Could she not do this for them?
And so exactly 24 hours later, she stood once more in the dimly lit study at Sheesh Mahal, ready to negotiate with the man she absolutely loathed.
"Ah, so you're back... What did you say yesterday? That I'm the last man on earth you'd ever want?" Arnav chuckled, his lips twisting with spite. "Now you see, don't you Ms. Gupta, that I always win? I will have you. I will make you mine." He flung the contract at her.
Her hands shook as she read the most important line again: 'I, Khushi Kumari Gupta, agree without force or compulsion to pleasure Mr. Arnav Singh Raizada in all ways for exactly 30 days.'
"If the legal jargon is too much for you, let me explain so there is no confusion," bit out Arnav coldly, rising from his chair.
Khushi instinctively took two steps back, her eyes wide and fearful. He was tall and formidable looking, dressed in a black, silk robe and matching pants. The hard, exposed planes of his chest caught her attention again. She was suddenly highly aware of what this contract would require of her.
Could she do it? Could she give herself over to him? This man who was so unlike her? Who had no heart...no soul?
He was all business as he snatched the contract from her, his gaze hard and remorseless.
"Page 11 covers the disclosure criteria. You may not--under no circumstance--tell anyone about this deal of ours. I will not have you blabbing to the media, hoping for a nice check from me. Nor will you go to my family and beg for some type of marriage or alimony. And to be fair, the same will hold for me. I will not tell your family or anyone else for that matter about what we do privately."
He flipped through the document. "Page 13 states that you enter this contract willingly as a legal adult. That you agree to everything and you do understand what everything means, don't you?"
Khushi nodded stiffly.
Smirking, he pushed the document at her. "And page 14 goes over contraception. I will not have you trapping me with any illegitimate children. Now, any questions or are you ready to sign?"
Khushi's heart beat painfully. She stared at his handsome, chiseled profile and discerned no compassion. No humanity. "I'll sign... but on one condition."
His eyes hardened like twin stones. "Condition? Let me remind you that you are in no position to bargain with me."
"I'll give you whatever you want... please... just this one condition."
Arnav's eyes traced over her. "Really? I'm curious now, what do you want so badly?"
Khushi took a deep breath and then unfurled her hand from the small object in her fist.
"This..."
The silver container was impossible to miss and even in the dim light, the crimson powder it contained inside shone in the darkness.
Arnav's lips thinned as he stared down at it. "Sindoor? You think I'm actually going to marry you or something? Do you have some middle-class dreams of being Mrs. Raizada? Well, it will never happen. Did you not pay attention to page 11--there will be no wedding. I don't believe in marriage."
Khushi met his gaze head-on. "Sindoor marks a woman as a wife. It is not legally binding."
As he remained silent, Khushi thrust the sindoor toward him. "It's just powder for you, isn't it? So why are you hesitating so much?"
His eyes burned into her. "True... it means nothing. But because of this, I will change the contract. The 'exactly 30 days' clause will be edited out and replaced with 'as long as he so desires'."
And that was the most heinous detail, that she had bound herself to him, had willingly extended the contract to no set time limit.
Arnav's face was half in the shadows as he pinched his thumb and forefinger in the sindoor and raised it toward her. "You will remain only Ms. Gupta. This is no marriage, you understand?"
Khushi nodded. She would never accept him as her husband, but she needed this. Otherwise how would she ever face herself? How would she give herself to him?
Their eyes met and clashed. His hand pressed against her parting, smearing the crimson across her.
"Now sign the contract," bit out Arnav.
And Khushi could do nothing but lean down, signing her fate away.
His eyes were dark and stormy. "Take this envelope: it contains plane tickets to Delhi, your job information at AR Designs and keys to an apartment. I expect you there in two days. Monday morning."
"But Jiji's wedding is Sunday. How will I--"
"Make any excuse you want to your family. But you better be there."
Khushi could only nod. And then as soon as she could, she left, running out. It was only once she was outside that she allowed herself to sob, her hand rising to her sindoor-filled parting. Crying still, she wiped away any evidence of the crimson.
*****
As Payal's wedding drew near with every passing hour, Khushi fought not to recall the details of the contract. Sometimes, she talked herself out of it. Maybe he was just playing with her. Maybe it was nothing but a game to him.
But the fear was always there. The night before the grand wedding, her older cousins took Payal aside, explaining to her what would be required of her on her wedding night. Khushi hesitated on the doorway, half-listening.
"Khushi, why are you here? It's not your turn," laughed one of the girls.
She'd left, wiping a tear from the corner of her eye. She couldn't tell them that it was her turn already. The details had already been drawn up and signed.
And then as the groom's family had arrived, she'd received a text message from him: Here's Delhi's best gynecologist's address. See her at 1 PM tomorrow and get on the pill ASAP.
The words sent a chill down her spine. After that, she could never forget that it was real--too real.
*****
Dark gray clouds loomed over Delhi as Khushi stepped into the unfamiliar city. It had been difficult to leave Lucknow, especially her parents. She'd told them she'd received a job offer she couldn't refuse, and though they'd been surprised by the suddenness of everything, they'd been happy to hear more good news. One daughter happily married, and the other getting her first real job. It seemed fortune had smiled down upon the Guptas this year, Garima maintained.

Her father had been hesitant, but Buaji was in Delhi and that calmed his nerves.
But Khushi hadn't gone to her aunt's. She'd gone to the doctor first and then headed to the apartment building ASR had instructed her to go to, making excuses to her aunt about long commutes and the great apartment she'd found. It was not a complete lie.
The building was several stories tall, all sleek and modern. The sign at the entrance read 'AR Luxury Apartments.'
It was raining now, the wind had picked up. And yet, Khushi couldn't bring herself to leave the parking lot and enter the building. She knew what would happen there. It frightened her. Even the memory of the sindoor was little consolation.
She felt alone, utterly and completely alone.
As she stood in the pouring rain, headlights zeroed in on her. She heard the slam of the car door, heard footsteps approach her but she could do not seem to move, shivering terribly.
Arnav walked up to her slowly, taking in her drenched form. Her lips were almost blue from cold. Cursing under his breath, he laid a hand on her shoulder. She immediately jumped away, her eyes widening with alarm.
"What the hell are you doing out here, Khushi? Come on, we're going inside."
She shook her head. "I can't... I've never..."
Something warm ignited in his chest. He stared at her quietly for a few moments and then cupped her soft cheek in his palm. Surprisingly, she did not pull away. Her eyes were red and watery as she gazed up at him, and he knew her tears were mixing with the raindrops.
Without a word, he pulled her against him, holding her pressed to him. She inhaled sharply, seemingly frozen against him. And then with a cry, her hands closed around him, her body shaking as she cried.
"Hush," murmured Arnav after a long pause. "I won't hurt you dammit. Now come on, we have to warm you up. You're freezing."
She said nothing as he swung her up in his arms, taking her inside the well-lit lobby. As the elevator doors closed, she buried her face against his neck, barely breathing. Arnav watched her carefully, gripping his wet burden tightly.
As they entered the dark apartment, he locked it behind him and took her to the bedroom without pause.
No words were exchanged between them as he undressed her, peeling off each layer. Picking her up in his arms, he took her to the adjacent bathroom, standing with her in the shower as a hot spray hit them both. 
The water blinked her awake. Khushi became increasingly aware of the fully dressed, male body against her bareness. An unfamiliar sensation clenched deep within her.
Arnav's hands fisted from the need to touch her. But he didn't let himself. He wanted her to want him. To need him. Whatever he may claim, he was no monster.
Toweling her dry as if she were a child, he laid her on the bed, his eyes taking in her perfection. She was beautiful, every curve calling out for his touch.
Leaning down, he set his mouth on hers, kissing her gently.
Khushi shook at that first intimate touch. She knew she should pull away, but as an overwhelming heat built between them, she found herself responding, her hands clenching on the bed sheets.
His kiss changed at once. Now, it was almost fiery, firm and powerful as he plunged his tongue into her mouth, tasting her with a searing intensity. Shocked by the intimate caress, Khushi moaned, thrashing against the sheets as he took more and more. Her body pulsed. Her heart raced.
Between more heady kisses, Arnav pulled away, his hands not even fumbling the least bit as he took off his drenched clothes. Khushi had never seen a man in this state of undress but he... he took her breath away. He was perfection, his body smooth, toned, and sculpted.
Part of her was still scared but as he settled on her, his mouth hard and possessive on hers she forgot everything but the spark between them. She could only respond, arching up to his powerful touch.
And then throwing her off completely, that sinful mouth of his closed around her breast, suckling almost desperately. She cried out, her nails raking his back. He kissed and touched her everywhere, missing nothing. And she let him, arching into every caress.
As passion burned everything in its path, he suddenly rose off her, balancing on his forearms. His eyes were dark and turbulent as he stared down at her, taking in her heaving chest, her tousled hair, her swollen lips. A fine sheen of sweat covered them both.
"Are you ready for this?"
Her breath left her as she realized what he was asking. And yet, she was not afraid. Nodding, she looped her arms around his neck, pulling him down on her. There was a bit of pain, but passion overrode everything else as he joined them, entwining them more intimately than Khushi had thought possible.
They both moaned out loud, the sounds merging. He laid kisses down her neck, his fingers weaving with hers as a rhythm sprung between them: tender at first and then hard and unrelenting. They moved as one, slipping into these new roles as if they'd always been so close, so intimate. Khushi cried out as something overwhelming crashed into her. Arnav pushed deeper, his mouth catching her cry as his tongue stroked hers. He didn't release her that easily. He was demanding and insatiable, taking more and more. And then as another wave of passion hit Khushi, he threw back his head and yelled too: her name echoing in the dark bedroom.
Later, he refused to leave her, holding her so tightly against him Khushi could not for a single moment forget what they had shared even if she wanted to. She found herself holding onto him, needing his strong support. And then exhaustion overwhelmed her, throwing her into a restless sleep.
The last thing she remembered before blackness took over were his eyes, hard and penetrating as he pulled a blanket over them, keeping her plastered to him.
*****
The memories were just as vivid as ever. And yet they no longer hurt as much as they used to. No longer made her cheeks burn with shame.
Khushi almost smiled as she walked to the bedroom where Arnav Singh Raizada had made her his. Sitting before the vanity, she stared at her reflection in the mirror, drawn to the sparkle in her eyes, the rosiness on her cheeks.
Her gaze fell on a small, silver container. Slowly, she reached for it, removing the cover. The sindoor inside remained just as vibrant as that dark night at Sheesh Mahal.
She was not his wife, Khushi knew. But could she accept him as her husband? Could she give him a chance?
Her fingers were calm and steady as she applied the sindoor for the first time, a smile tugging her lips as she stared at herself now. She felt...strangely complete, in ways she herself did not fully understand.
Her eyes closed as she remembered Arnav, the bottomless worry in his eyes.
Please... she prayed silently. Please let him be okay. Please let my husband be okay.
*****
Blood.
It was the one thing Arnav had never been able to stand the sight of. Not since he'd found his parents dead, their eyes glazed over and bullets lodged deep.
And right now, blood was everywhere. It was overflowing, spreading in a sickening crimson puddle around his sister.
"DI!" he screamed, kneeling beside her on the marble tiles. "DI!"
She smiled weakly. "Chote... has he come? He'll return now, won't he? Shyamji has to come."
His gut churned as he stared at her. A team of nurses lifted her away from him, speaking in hushed voices. Dadi and Nani looked panic-filled as they cornered him.
"Where were you, Arnav?" asked Dadi, her voice cold and her eyes flashing. "I called you so many times, but you didn't once pick up."
"It doesn't matter. Where is he?" His tone was dead sounding.
Nani was quiet, but his other grandmother frowned at him with blatant disapproval. "You should be grateful to Shyamji. Who else would stay in this marriage with Anjali being as damaged as she is? You should go thank him."
Arnav ignored her mockery, brushing past her. His brother-in-law was easy to find. He was in the garage, admiring his new Porsche.
"Isn't it a beauty, saale saab?"
Arnav grabbed him by the throat. "I pay you to keep Di happy, you understand? How could this happen--again!"
Shyam laughed. "She is happy. I was gone for a few hours and she had one of her 'accidents'. It wasn't my fault. I'm not paid to be with her every minute, am I? If you want me to do that, you'll have to increase my paychecks." Laughing still, he walked away, saying in a voice dripping with phony charm: "Rani Sahiba? What happened, love?"
Arnav resisted the urge to go after him. It made him sick--the relationship his sister and brother-in-law shared was toxic in every sense and yet, for his Di's sanity, it had to continue.
Marriage. He hated the word alone. Could there be a more meaningless institution? His sister's marriage, not to mention his parent's, were lessons enough. Swearing under his breath, he left the garage, feeling sick to his stomach.
The doorbell rang just then.
And since everyone was gathered in Di's room, Arnav headed to the main door, his eyes hollow and stormy. "Who--"
His words trailed off as he stared at the vision before him. "Khushi?"
She smiled at him and with a curse, he closed the door behind him, pulling her bodily into his arms. The stack of papers in her hands--her rather lousy excuse for having come unannounced--flew into the air.
"What the hell are you doing here?"
She laid a hand over his chest, tilting her angelic face to him. "I had to see you. I was so worried."
Arnav almost trembled. It had been so long since anyone had cared. With a small moan, he captured her lips with his, kissing her hungrily.
"Khushi. Khushi... you shouldn't have come to this hellhole. You shouldn't be here."
Her palms cupped his cheeks. Her eyes traced over him with unmistakeable tenderness. "I am not leaving you."
And for the first time, Arnav was left speechless.

Secret Passion by TINA! & Satina
Epi 8: Shantivan
For a few moments, they stood silent, neither ready to let the other go. Arnav was struck by the fierceness in her tone, it was completely unexpected. His thumb rubbed back and forth across her parted lips, needing to touch her.
"Let me check inside. If my sister's husband is near, I can't let you in. I refuse to let him even lay his filthy eyes on you."
She was the one pure thing in his life, he wouldn't let her be touched by that sort of darkness. Every good instinct told him to send her away, but he couldn't do it. He couldn't stand by and watch her leave a second time today.
Khushi though seemed to understand. Nodding, she pressed a gentle kiss to his wandering hand. "Fine. I won't argue, okay Mr. Raizada?"
He stared at her mesmerized, drawn to the twinkle in her eyes, the smile on her lips. What the hell had he done to deserve that look? Usually she frowned at him. Well he wouldn't question it. Drawn to that smile, he leaned forward and kissed her again, pulling her tight against him.
Several breathless kisses later, he forced himself to back away, going inside alone.
"HP!" he called to the passing servant. "Where are my Di and her husband?"
The servant pointed to the dark hallway behind him. "They've retired in their room for the night. Everything is okay now."
Okay? Would anything ever be okay? Or was it another false lull?
"Fine, you can get back to work," Arnav said absently, heading back to the main door.
His Khushi stood waiting, her hands twisting nervously. He felt a pleasant warmth spread through him as he observed her. Part of him couldn't believe she was really there. That she'd come--for him!
"Come on in. Coast is clear. We might just make it to my room unseen."
She followed him into Shantivan with hesitance, glancing at the finery inside with curiosity.
They almost made it.
They were just striding down the main corridor when a loud voice stopped them in their tracks.
"Khushi!"
Arnav and Khushi turned with surprise, exchanging a glance. The willowy woman walking to them did not seem to notice. She threw her arms around Khushi, hugging her tight.
"Khushi! I knew you would come after hanging up on me yesterday," Payal said. "I'm sorry we argued about Karan. I shouldn't have been so nosy."
Khushi patted her cousin on the back, staring at Arnav with silent longing. His face was dark and unreadable. "It's okay, Jiji."
Arnav's mouth thinned with annoyance. Payal's interference was certainly not okay--not then and sure as hell not now.
In fact, his cousin's wife seemed to agree with him, even if Khushi did not. She leaned away from Khushi, looking apologetic.
"No... I know I went a bit overboard. And I disturbed you too, I think."
Khushi turned a beautiful, rosy red while Arnav bit back a grin. "Umm, it's fine, Jiji. Really. How is Jijaji?"
"Akash is at a conference," said Payal, smiling. "He'll be back in two weeks. Now, come on, we have so much to catch up on."
Arnav growled under his breath, ready to intervene but Khushi shook her head with alarm. "Please don't," she mouthed.
He sighed as he watched her walk away from him. Damn it to hell! He wanted her now, the two of them alone. And preferably with not so many clothes on.
*****
But within the hour they met again--this time at the dinner table. His sister and brother-in-law remained conspicuously absent and for that Arnav was grateful. He took his seat at the head of the table.
"Khushi bitiya," murmured Nani, her voice sounding weak. "Come sit here next to me."
"Of course, Naniji."
Arnav couldn't take his eyes off of her as she sat to his right, within reach. He wasted no time.
Under the table, he caught her left hand in his, weaving their fingers tightly. She stiffened and then as their eyes met, Arnav was pleased that she did not attempt to tug herself free. In fact, she squeezed his hand, keeping their intertwined hands on her lap.
Dadi sat across from Khushi, her gaze resentful as she stared at her.
"Don't you have a job? How is it that you have so much free time to wander about Delhi?" she asked, her nose wrinkling.
Khushi began to reply, but Nani shushed her, shaking her head. "Really, Sumitra, she hardly visits us as it is. Now, bitiya, I insist you stay over tonight. It is very late now."
"I couldn't--"
Arnav's tightening grip silenced her.
Payal nodded swiftly. "Nani is absolutely right. You can stay in the guestroom tonight."
Dadi looked as if she'd swallowed some insect as she listened to them plan. Her head swiveled to her grandson. "Aren't you going to say anything?"
Arnav shrugged, taking a sip of water. His eyes were frosty as they met his grandmother's over the glass rim. "What?"
Her mouth pursed at his rude tone. Throwing her napkin on her half-finished plate, Dadi marched away without responding.
Nani and Payal smiled reassuringly at Khushi, trying to change the topic. Arnav bent to her ear, murmuring so softly that only she could hear: "She's not worth worrying about. I'll meet you upstairs."
A blush stained her cheeks as she sensed his eyes traveling over her, pausing at some key locations. She could barely sit still. And yet, she forced herself to eat. Knowing Arnav Singh Raizada, she would need all her energy.
*****
Forty minutes later, Khushi stood alone in the guest bedroom, staring out the floor to ceiling windows. It was dark outside, the glow of the moon hidden behind some low-hanging clouds.
What was she doing here? wondered Khushi. Had it been the right decision? And yet she knew that even if she could do it all over again, she would have still come. Would have still come for him.
Worry had been gnawing at her in the apartment. She couldn't have slept with the mounting tension. And anyways, how could she possibly rest when she knew he was in some problem?
It was so odd the bond that connected her to him. Part of her remembered the cold, unapproachable man she'd first met at Sheesh Mahal and revolted at the idea of coming to him. Reason told her to sever the fragile ties between them.
But her heart... her heart had a mind of its own. It felt like it no longer belonged to her. She was powerless to not heed its call.
A hard hand suddenly grasped her wrist, twisting her around. Arnav's face was difficult to read. He dragged her against his sweater-covered front, his warm breath brushing across her lips.
"Everyone has gone to their rooms. The hallway is empty outside. Come on."
Khushi did not attempt to resist, following him on. She doubted she could have managed to talk him out of it. His grip on her wrist was unyielding.
His bedroom was two doors down. It was dark and unfamiliar. Bathed in a dim light, the mammoth room was largely empty. Khushi was vaguely aware of a king size bed, an emerald-colored chaise lounge, other modern furnishings, and white walls.
She didn't have time to stop and analyze. Because Arnav was dragging her to the master bathroom, not stopping till he pulled her inside and locked the door behind them.
The moment the door shut, he was on her, pushing her against the wood as his mouth slanted across hers. Khushi moaned, her hands diving into his thick hair. She had been needing this all afternoon, whether she liked it or not. She could no longer fight this pull.
Between open-mouthed kisses, he stepped back from her abruptly.
"Arnav?" she said breathlessly, reaching out to him.
He shook his head, his eyes darkening. "Undress," he whispered, his voice hard and ice-cold. "I'll rip your clothes off if I do it."
She trembled at that confession, her pulse racing. And yet even as she set her dupatta aside, he was already half-undressed she saw, throwing his sweater over his head. He bent low, turning on the dials near the marble tub. Warm water rushed out, steam rising across the glistening surface.
His eyebrow cocked as she stood unmoving, her fingers hesitating. "I said undress. I want everything off. Now."
Khushi took a deep breath and reached for her hem, taking the fabric off her sensitive skin. He'd barely touched her and here she was, ready for him. What was it about this man? she wondered. Her...her husband.
Arnav's hands tightened into fists as he waited, standing completely bare before her--and fully aroused.
"Hurry up, dammit. I've been aching for you since I dropped you off. I need you."
His words splintered any remaining uncertainty. She slipped out of her clothes, her hands reaching back for the snaps on her bra. Her fingers though fumbled, feeling a bit numb.
He made an impatient sound, stripping it off with one quick release and stepping back once more.
The small touch alone shook them both. The material loosened from her chest, revealing her to his hungry gaze. Khushi set the lacy bra atop her pile of clothes and then faced him head-on.
The way he was watching her... deep and penetrating, it sent a blaze of heat shooting through her. Her hands began to rise, meaning to shield her exposed curves.
"Don't."
That single word halted her. Her gaze rose to his, widening.
"Let me see you," Arnav whispered.
And so her hands fell to her sides, the nails biting into her skin as the blaze transformed into a full-blow quaking. Her chest heaved as she stared across at him. He was perfection--lean, toned and broad-shouldered. It was his eyes that captivated her the most: a warm, dark brown and speckled with gold. There was a trace of sadness there, but mostly a burning fire, something hot and wild. It felt like he could read her every secret.
Why wasn't he coming to her? she wondered as he refused to step forward, simply staring at her.  Did he not know how much she needed him?
"I don't know what I've done to deserve you." His quiet voice shook her. The forlorn, lost look on his face broke her every hesitation.
With a whimper, Khushi raced to him, throwing herself into his arms. She held onto him as tight as she could, their bare bodies plastered together.
Arnav stood frozen for a second and then with an oath, he clasped her to him, holding her as if she would disappear any moment. The haunted look on his face transformed to one of savage passion.
"But there's no way I'm going to let you go. You're mine, Khushi. I will not lose you."
She dropped kisses on his chest, his shoulder, his neck--anything she could reach. Rising on her tiptoes, she silenced him with another firm kiss, using every technique he'd taught her.
"Arnav... I don't know what's between us. It confuses me so much. But I know that I can't let you go either. I've tried and failed. I need you, Arnav Singh Raizada. I want you. Only you."
His mouth curved into a teasing smirk. "So you meant it when you said you no longer hated me?"
She nodded, leaning forward for another kiss. Her hands rose to cup his face, needing him to understand. "Yes. I meant it. Every word. Did you?"
His hands tightened on her. He dragged her hard against him, his eyes tracing over her hungrily. "You need to ask? I've never hated you, even from the first time I saw you. I hated what you made me feel--this deep ache that refuses to go away, this need to be with you in every sense--but I never hated you, Khushi."
It was the most he'd ever told her. And for now, it was more than enough for her. Perhaps some girls would want the flowery words, the sweet romance, but she wanted this man: overbearing and difficult, with a dark past that disturbed him still. She was tired of fighting whatever it was between them.
Their list of problems seemed endless, but right now, only he mattered. Only they mattered. Blissfully alone and needing one another almost desperately.
Palming his bristly stubble, her eyes locked with his. "Arnav. Baby, please..."
He smiled at her--genuinely smiled--his eyes shining more than ever before. The sight left Khushi awestruck. But the next second, he scooped her into his arms, taking her to the now filled bathtub.
Draping her across his lap, he grasped her by the face, finally setting his mouth across hers. She moaned, twisting in his lap and straddling him so she could feel his every stroke. His tongue mated with hers expertly.
His hands settled on her hips, drawing her flush against him and then rose to her heaving chest. Khushi curled her arms around his neck, shivering as he touched her so blatantly. His fingers toyed with her, tugging and pinching lightly.
"Oh!" A strangled moan escaped her throat as he raised her above the water, his mouth replacing his hands. He suckled on her breasts almost desperately, as if he was starving for her.
Khushi's head fell back at the heat of his mouth, the coolness of his tongue. She kneeled in the water, bracing against his shoulders as he shifted to her other nipple, ravenous with passion.
Water cascaded and splashed as he pushed her closer, his hand slipping between her parted legs. Khushi gasped, bending forward for more wild kisses. It felt like he was unraveling her, taking over completely.
"Arnav... Arnav, please..."
The words were nothing but a breathless panting. She needed him. She could not deny it any longer. Arnav teased her more, his gaze tracing over her shivering form with satisfaction. Never had he felt so close to anyone. It was as if more than their bodies, their souls were entwining.
He crashed his lips to hers, growling at the feel of her softness pressed to him, writhing frantically. He wanted to drive her wild, to show her the heights of passion, but there was only so much he could take. This woman seemed to break his every resolve.
Grasping her by the hips, he lunged deep, catching her cry in his mouth. Eager hand and mouths slipped as their desires unleashed.
Khushi could barely hang on, her body clenching as she gripped him tightly.  He was inside her, joined so intimately, the sensation unraveling her very being.  Her eyes closed at the tantalizing friction.
"Open your eyes, baby."
And then as their eyes locked and everything was laid bare, Arnav and Khushi kissed heatedly, finally whole.
*****
A long while later, Khushi lay in the still warm water of the tub, her hands stroking Arnav's wet hair. He was lying with his head on her shoulder, his legs thrown over her. One arm remained around her waist while the other palmed her right breast, testing its firmness and weight.
She kissed his forehead, holding him tight. "Are you okay?"
He laughed brokenly, his eyes going to her. "Now I am. You soothe me more than I can say."
She pressed closer if possible. "But before?"
He rested against her chest, his eyes closing. He quietly told her about his Di's latest episode and his brother-in-law's thinly veiled demand for more money.
Khushi's eyebrows shot up. "You pay him? To stay married to Di?"
Arnav nodded, kissing her softness.
"But why?" She tilted his face up so she could read those turbulent eyes. "He's an evil human being. Why would you deliberately keep her with him?"
His gaze shuttered. "You think I don't know that? No one knows more than me how sick that man is." He shuddered against her, burrowing closer. "It kills me to see Di with him. It tears me up inside."
Khushi rubbed his bare chest, cuddling against him. "Then why? Why do you allow it? And pay him for it?"
"Because they're parasites. The pair of them. It's hard to accept, but it's the truth. Di can't live without him. Every time I tried to keep her away from him in the past, she would find some way to harm herself--getting more desperate and dangerous every time. She won't believe anything against him. And he needs her too--because of the money. So he stays with her, feeding off of her."
Khushi could feel the pain radiating in his hollow voice. Could sense the damage it had ridden on his soul. "It's not your fault. I know you must have tried everything. It's them. Not you... never you."
Arnav stared at her with surprise. His eyes narrowed on her. "I don't know why you care so much. I've hardly given you any reason to."
She began to speak but he quieted her with his mouth, kissing hotly. "Let me say it, dammit. You insist, Khushi, that you don't hate me anymore. But hell, you have every reason to. I ruined your life, didn't I? If not for me, you would be happily married to that smiley-faced Karan. You wouldn't be here--with a man so... so scarred."
Khushi stilled against him. She'd never seriously thought about what would have happened if she hadn't fallen into his arms. If he hadn't entered her world and changed its very foundation. And yet it was true, if not for him, she would likely be engaged if not married to someone like Karan.
"Maybe," she admitted, cupping his cheek in her hand. "But I'm here now. And I don't want to be anywhere else this second but here with you--like this."
His eyes sizzled to midnight black. His hand dipped under the water, touching her intimately. "Tonight.. let's not think about anything but us. Only us. Only this."
She nodded breathlessly, crashing her lips to his. They kissed hungrily. And then because they were pressed so close, Arnav felt her shiver against him.
He swore under his breath. The water was getting cold now. How the hell had he failed to notice that?
Lifting her into his arms, he set her on the tiles, reaching for some towels. As he'd done in the apartment, he dried her off, his hands working down each arm and leg. Smiling, she grabbed the towel from him, working it across his chest and abdomen.
He instantly responded, crushing her to him. "I wouldn't do that if I were you."
"Why not? What will you do, Mr. Raizada?"
He growled faintly, picking her up into his still damp arms and stomping to his dark bedroom. Placing her on the bed, he loomed above her: nothing but a giant shadow.
Khushi raised her hands to him, welcoming him into her embrace. With a pent-up moan, he reached for her, his body covering hers.
"Only us..." reminded Khushi, her hands slipping between them and finding his hardness. "Only this."
He kissed her eagerly, his tongue plunging deep. "Touch me, Khushi. I need you to touch me."
Her soft, hesitant touch was like a balm covering him, soothing him. And yet it was all fire too, igniting his every passion.
As she shyly stroked, he covered her hands with his, guiding her at a far brisker pace. His mouth fell on her chest, ravenous for more.
"Khushi. Harder."
"Arnav... Baby, please... Now."
Her muffled voice broke his every wall. Bracing against the headboard, he joined them, biting his lip to keep from screaming out loud.
She kissed the hard planes of his chest, arching up to meet him.
"Put your legs around me," he ordered.
And then as she gave him everything, holding nothing back, he leaned down, his fingers diving into her tousled hair. He raised her for his kiss, their eyes meeting in the darkness as they moved still.
"You're mine, Khushi."
She tightened her grip on him. "And you're mine, Arnav."
Their passion overwhelmed everything as their mouths sealed that unlikely bond with a soul-shattering kiss.
*****
As a shaft of brilliant sunlight hit the messy bed early the next morning, Khushi groaned, turning her face away. She cuddled against the warmth against her, her hands rubbing across smoothness. It felt wonderful, blissfully wonderful.
Arnav fought not to groan as she unknowingly touched him. She was killing him with her soft mewing and the constant shifting.
He kissed her lightly. "Baby?"
Her brow furrowed, but she did nothing, except cuddle even closer. Gritting his teeth, Arnav tried again, his hands massaging her warm back.
"Khushi?"
She made a face, burrowing closer to his chest.
He kissed her on the forehead. "It's morning. You need to wake up."
Khushi's eyes remained closed but she softly mumbled in a childlike voice. "I don't want to. I'm so sleepy..."
A warmth spread through him as he gazed at her. He pulled her on top of him, brushing back some loose tendrils. "I know... Trust me, I know. I hardly let you sleep last night."
Her eyes slowly fluttered open. Even as a small, shy smile appeared, she told him: "It's all your fault, Mr. Raizada."
His hand sloped over her curves. "We have to get to the office. There's an important meeting today."
That finally snapped her awake. She was suddenly highly aware that she'd snuck into his room the night before. If anyone discovered them like this... Her eyes rounded. No one would even give them the chance to explain. "Let me up. I should go back to the guest room."
He shook his head, his hands tightening on her. "No, first I want you again, then you can go."
She stared at him with disbelief. "You were just saying there's a meeting and now you're--"
He covered her mouth with his hand. "I woke you up on time. We have just enough time before getting dressed."
Her mouth dropped opened against his palm. "You woke me up for... for THAT!"
Arnav smirked, rolling her beneath him. "Yes. For 'THAT'! Now stop fighting me, you're throwing the whole schedule off."
And then before she could argue, he shushed her up, his mouth descending low.  Khushi could do nothing but let him take control, drawn to him like a moth to flame.
It was later, as they lay spent, that Khushi noticed the odd tilt of the mattress.
"Arnav, why is the bed dipping like this?"
He grinned handsomely. "Because we broke it last night."
"What! When?"
"Possibly round two. I'm not sure. Does it matter?"
She smacked his chest. "Of course it does. What if someone heard?"
"Who cares if they did? We're two adults. Why the hell should anyone care?"
Khushi rolled her eyes as she scurried off of him. "I'll argue with you later. But right now we really need to get dressed."
*****
An hour later, they finally stood showered and ready, surveying the damage of the broken bed.
"I can't believe we actually broke it," muttered Khushi. "What will you say?"
Arnav circled her slim waist with his hands, smirking. "Why should I have to explain anything? Anyways, no one will really care. Except maybe Dadi."
Khushi shook her head, but he suddenly drew her down on the lopsided mattress.
"Arnav! We just got dressed! We can't.."
"I know," he murmured with regret. "But according to my watch, we have ten minutes. Nani wakes up every morning at the same time. She'll be up in fifteen minutes or so and by then, we'll already be gone."
She leaned up on her elbow, but the tilt of the mattress had her slipping back down against him. "I can't just leave like that. What will everyone think?"
He sighed. "Just leave a note saying you had work--which is no lie."
Khushi bit her lip. "What will we do for ten minutes?"
He grew serious. "Be with me. Just lay beside me."
She could not deny him. Her arms wrapped around him, holding tight.
It was so odd what she felt in his arms. The closest thing to peace she'd ever experienced. And something told her, he felt the same.
Secret Passion by TINA! & Satina
Episode 9: The Announcement
Khushi and Arnav kept a good two feet of space between them as they walked out of Raizada Mansion, exactly five minutes before Nani would be up. It was unspoken and understood.
As they walked silently down the driveway, Khushi couldn't help but trace over his profile. He was dressed impeccably in a navy blue designer suit, his hair gelled back. She was drawn to the strong line of his jaw, his tall, lean shape as he walked beside her. Observing him, she couldn't help but wish that the secret contract between them did not exist. That she could be free to reach over and grasp his hand in hers.
It was painful to admit that she could not. At least not yet. She shook her head, berating herself. Had they not come so far? It was more progress than she'd ever dreamt possible. And for now, it was enough. Her heart trembled as she recalled him in her embrace last night: vulnerable and shaken.
As Khushi climbed into the SUV, Arnav turned back to the house, his eyes drifting to each closed window. It was odd, but he could have sworn someone was watching them.
"Arnav?"
His gaze flickered to her.
"Is everything okay?" Khushi asked from inside the confines of the jeep, brushing her hair back. Her cheeks felt warm against the palm of her hand. Memories of the night of passion they'd shared kept resurfacing. In the brightness of the morning sun, it seemed like they were more vivid than ever before.
"Yeah," he murmured, sitting beside her and turning on the ignition. As the car jerked forward, his hand automatically found hers, their fingers entwining. Khushi smiled as she gazed out the window, squeezing his hand.
She had faith that they would be okay.
Neither one of them realized that as they left Shantivan, high in the upstairs window, one of the inhabitants pulled back the curtain, the eyes turning black with spite as they watched the SUV depart.
*****
The roads were clogged with traffic. Arnav swore as they sat unmoving, the person behind them honking endlessly. He started to complain to Khushi, but then he noticed the small frown on her face, the lines of tension marring her forehead.
He picked up her hand, pressing a kiss to her palm. "What's wrong?"
His touch unwound her. Her eyes threatened to flutter shut at his open-mouthed caress. But the worry refused to fade.
"Jiji..." she admitted softly. "Won't she feel terrible that I left like that? It was the first time I visited her and I didn't even say good bye, just left a short note."
Arnav sighed. "From what I've seen of your cousin, she'll handle it just fine." His eyes locked with hers. "You know, when we walked in yesterday, I forgot for a moment all about her. Her voice calling your name out like that was a surprise."
Khushi raised an eyebrow. "How do you think I felt when I found out she was getting married into your family a little over a month ago? I thought she would be marrying Ajay, her longtime fiance--not Akash Raizada."
His eyes hardened as he recalled the past. "That was my plan originally. But then I called that Ajay and asked him why he left Payal at the altar in the first place and what it would take for him to return. He listed off several things, including a sum of money that no middle-class family could ever hope to gather.  And as soon as he spoke, so casually, as if we were discussing business and not a living, breathing human being, I understood what type of man he was--someone just like Shyam Manohar Jha: greedy and manipulative."
"Why didn't you let him marry Jiji? You hated me then, didn't you?"
Arnav shook his head. "I was angry with you, more furious than I'd been in a long time. But like I told you last night, Khushi, I never hated you--not even then. And besides, no woman deserves a fate like my sister's. I couldn't have lived with that type of guilt. I admit there is a lot of darkness inside me, but I couldn't fall that low--never."
Khushi's heart squeezed painfully. She'd been wrong about him in more ways than one.
"So that's why you convinced Akash Jiju?" She wiped a tear away, seeing him in a whole, new light. "You know on the day of their wedding, I was more worried about Jiji than anything else. I assumed it was part of your revenge. That you'd get my cousin married to a monster and I'd be able to do nothing but watch it happen--right in front of my eyes. But Jiji spoke to me before the ceremony and she was so happy, genuinely smiling and giggling. She never behaved that way during her engagement with Ajay. And Akash Jiju was so very pleasant and easy-going. I still had my doubts, but now... I see that you were actually looking out for my cousin. You saved her."
"I am no hero, Khushi. Get the thought out of your beautiful head. Because I'll just disappoint you." A shadow seemed to cross his face.
She did not argue, though she longed to. Khushi knew he wouldn't believe her. He did have his share of flaws, perhaps more than the average person. And he was scarred. Sure, he appeared nothing short of perfection on the outside, but she knew better than anyone else that deep within, his heart and soul were riddled with decades-deep scars.
Could she be strong enough to face this? Could she bring him some happiness? As she sat beside him, she couldn't help but wonder what type of man he would have been if not for his tragic past. She ached to wipe away every painful memory of those dark days, but it would not be that easy.
"Finally," Arnav muttered as they reached AR Designs. He parked in his reserved spot near the private back entrance. She couldn't help but note the hint of sadness on his face still.
As they walked down the empty corridor, he suddenly grabbed her arm, stopping her before she could walk onto the main floor.
His body was hard and powerful as it crushed her against the wall. His lips traced over the outer shell of her left ear. "Lunch today?"
Khushi froze in his arms. She knew exactly what that husky tone was really asking for. Her heart galloped.  An image of entangled limbs and hungry mouths flashed past her eyes.
"Khushi?" His voice was harsher now, his grip tightening.
"Yes," she replied, tilting her head toward him. "I'll come."
His eyes sizzled to midnight black. Bending his neck, he kissed her heatedly, his tongue plunging deep. She arched against him, pressing kiss after kiss.
All too soon, he stepped back, gazing at her with mind-numbing intensity. "See you then."
Khushi smoothed the front of his jacket, needing to touch him in some small way. "See you."
Neither moved away, drawn to the other.
Their mouths met for one more thorough kiss and then with a curse, he pulled away, stalking past her to the main door. She knew she should follow, but her body felt limp. Taking a deep breath, she tried to steady herself.
"Arnav?" Khushi called just as he was about to reach for the doorknob.
He did not reply, only his eyebrow shooting upward as he turned around.
She stood tall, facing him from down the long hallway. "I'll be waiting."
He half-smiled, the corner of his lip curving. "Me too. Don't be late, Ms. Gupta."
And then he was gone, his tall form marching out. She was pleased to note that the sadness was no longer as apparent. His eyes were almost twinkling now.
*****
11:48 AM
That day, each minute in the office seemed to tick by extra slow. Khushi kept one eye on the clock as she sat in her cubicle, her gaze moving to the glass cabin every now and then.
She sighed as it remained stubbornly empty. Arnav was probably in one of the board rooms, she imagined, his sleeves rolled up and his face tired as he went through the string of morning meetings. From what she'd overheard a group of her coworkers discussing, apparently he was busy with some conference plans.
She hoped he was not working himself too hard. That man had a nasty habit of overlooking everything, including his own exhaustion, when it came to work.
On the other hand, her stack of files was surprisingly not so tall today. Sitting in the small, confined space, she was bored more than anything else. She checked the clock again, her eyes narrowing at it: 11:50 AM.
It had to be wrong, surely more time had passed. It should be past noon by now. Why was this wait so endless?
It was odd, Khushi mused. What had once been her hour of doom and shame had turned into something she found herself looking forward to.
They'd opened up to each other. And that it seemed had made all the difference. More than bodies merging now, it felt as if their souls mated. Khushi had never known lovemaking could be so powerful, so completely earth shattering.
Her gaze wandered to the clock again.
11:52 AM.
Groaning, she picked up another dull looking file, flipping through the pages. She'd throw herself into work she told herself. Keep so busy that 8 minutes would pass in a blink of an eye. Surprisingly, the pep talk actually helped. She hunched over the document, reading quickly. But just then, she felt something unusual and not entirely unfamiliar.
She froze for a minute and then as she realized it, she stood up quickly, darting down the hall.
*****
It was 12:15 PM, noted Arnav with frosty eyes. Where the hell was Khushi? A quarter of the lunch break was already over. And there was no sign of her.
His mouth thinned as he stared down at her cubicle. It too was empty.
Why was she doing this to him? he wondered, running a hand through his hair. She knew him by now. Knew better than anyone how much he hated tardiness.
He'd only gotten through the back-to-back morning meetings with thoughts of her in mind: of a pleasurable hour in her company alone, them sharing lunch and then likely more.
But she hadn't shown up. For a man who was used to getting things his way, it was downright infuriating.
As he paced in his cabin, Arnav felt tired, hungry, and more than a little annoyed. Where the hell was she?
With each minute that passed, more than anger, worry began setting in. Was she okay? What had delayed her?
He'd seen the glow on her face this morning, had tasted the promise of her words on her lips. Khushi had wanted him. Had wanted nothing more than for him to take her right there. It was beyond his understanding how such a sincere, angelic woman like her could want him--a man so utterly damaged. But he wasn't letting go of her now. No way, dammit! Khushi wanted him and that was all he needed to know. He seized on that thought, pushing aside all doubts. Something told him that she too had been counting the hours. He trusted that gut instinct.
Unable to stand the silence a second longer, he dialed Aman, practically punching the button.
"Yes, boss?"
"Where's Gupta?" he snarled.
His assistant paused. "I haven't seen her. But there are some new details about the conference if--"
"I don't give a damn about the conference right now, Aman! I told you to keep an eye on Khushi, but clearly that's beyond you."
"Mr. Raiz--"
Arnav cut in quickly, his voice resembling more a bark than anything else. "Never mind, I'll check on her myself."
Throwing the phone on one of the twin leather sofas, he marched out, his eyes hardening.
*****
Arnav stalked down the long, polished hallway on the fifth floor of AR Designs, glancing at his watch with impatience. Where could Khushi be? Had Payal called her again? Or had that boy Karan come for another friendly visit?
He dismissed that idea almost at once, his lips curving into a pleased smirk. He knew Karan would not return after their last conversation. But then where was Khu--
"Mr. Raizada!" 
He did not turn around, ignoring Aman, who hurried to catch up alongside him.  "Mr. Raizada!"
"What is it now?"
Aman handed over the new announcement. It was fresh off the printers and still warm in his hands. "These are the first details for the conference next week."
Arnav skimmed over the pages rather quickly. "Where is it being held this year?"
"Nainital is the top choice I believe."
An eyebrow shot up. "Nainital? We are not Star Plus, we have a bigger budget, you realize Aman."
"Then what would you prefer, Mr. Raizada?"
ASR's eyes glinted as he imagined it:  Khushi and him...with no damn intrusions or interrupters.
"NYC."
The assistant jotted it down. "I'll just make the announcement."
"No you will not," corrected Arnav, turning to the stairs. "I will handle it. Tell all the employees to gather in the main atrium--particularly Ms. Gupta."
Aman nodded, rushing off.
Khushi, thought Arnav as he looked about, Where the hell are you?
And then, as he rounded a corner, a small body collided with him, hurtling into his arms.
"Watch it, you--" His words stopped mid-sentence. "Khushi?"
He gave her no chance to respond, whispering in furious tone: "Where were you? I was waiting!"
She grimaced, glancing away. "Sorry. I wanted to be there but... couldn't be."
His gaze narrowed on her pale face. "I told you never to lie to me again, dammit!"
"I'm not lying!" Her eyes sparked with fire at that accusation.
Arnav took a deep breath, counting to ten mentally. This woman had the power to make him lose control so easily. He began again, asking brusquely: "Where. Were. You?"
"Arnav, please, it's not important," she began to move away.
He seized her elbow, dragging her into an empty office. He didn't even bother flipping on the lights, pulling her before him as the door slammed shut. "It's important to me. Now explain."
She fidgeted with her hands, looking down. "I'd rather not... Not here at least."
His jaw tightened. "Let me remind you, Ms. Gupta, that I have seen, touched, and kissed every inch of you. After that type of intimacy, what's there to hide? You're not making any bloody sense and I'm not in the mood to wait around for you to decide to tell me. I want to know where you were. Now."
Khushi frowned at him. "It was nothing important. Just something personal."
"Personal?" he pushed her against the wall, his eyes sizzling. "Baby, nothing can get more personal than what's between us." His expression darkened. "Was it that Karan? Or Payal bothering you? Are you trying to 'save' them from me by not telling me the truth? Like I'm some monster who'll eat them alive and--"
Khushi pushed against his chest, her eyes flashing at him. "Stop it! It's nothing like that!"
"Then where the hell were you?" Arnav asked again, harder this time. "It's a simple enough question. Why can't you answer it dammit?"
"Fine!" shouted Khushi, hitting his chest. "Fine! If you must know, I was in the restroom!"
He froze, his eyebrows knitting together. He'd steeled himself for Karan prowling after her or her Buaji calling again. But this threw him off completely. His gaze traveled over her from top to bottom. She did appear a bit weak. He laid the back of his hand on her forehead. "Why? Are you okay? You're not sick, are you?"
Khushi quieted at the softening in his eyes, the deep concern shining there catching her by surprise.
"No... I..." She didn't know why it was so hard to say it. He was right, they had shared far more intimate things. So she blurted it out, as fast as she could: "Ihavemyperiod."
He didn't have even the decency to look the slightest bit sorry. His eyebrow rose. "And why couldn't you just tell me that? I thought that pill you're on took care of everything."
She shook her head, another wave of cramps hitting her, just like when she'd been sitting in her cubicle. Arnav made her sit on the nearby desk, opening a water bottle from the mini-refrigerator below. She took it gratefully, drinking in big slurps.
He wiped back a sweaty tendril of hair. "You should go home. You look really pale."
"No, I'm staying. It's not that bad."
"Khushi--"
She laid a finger on his lips. "Please. I can get through the day."
He frowned. "Why do you have to be so stubborn always?"
She almost laughed out loud. "Me? Mr. Raizada, you should ask yourself that. I've never met anyone more stubborn than you."
He began to counter that claim when her phone rang.  Khushi's brow furrowed as she answered it:
"Hello? Yes, I'm in the building still... Announcement? Oh, okay. Bye."
She grabbed Arnav's hand. "Come on, we're late."
"For what? Was that Aman?"
She nodded, smiling. "Apparently you're late to your own announcement."
Arnav brushed a hand across his face. "This day feels like the longest day in my life."
"Almost over, baby," Khushi murmured, rising on her tiptoes to kiss him quickly. And then just as fast, she slipped out of his arms, heading downstairs.
Arnav stood shock-still for a moment, taken aback by the sudden affection from her. He'd never felt anything like it. Who knew a chaste kiss could be so intoxicating, so soul-shattering? His eyebrows furrowed as he followed after her.
*****
Ten minutes later, Khushi stood with the other employees in the main atrium.
"What's going on?" asked one of her friends beside her.
The man in front of them answered: "Some announcement. Mr. ASR is expected any moment."
And then as if on cue, he stalked past. Khushi couldn't help but stare at him, a warmth spreading as she recalled their moments alone together.
He took to the podium, his eyes sharp and business-like as they passed over the crowd, pausing at her briefly. The fleeting moment struck her with full force and then some.
"I have an important announcement to make," he began. "As some of you may have heard, there is a conference coming up, in which AR Designs will be a key player. This year it will be held in New York City."
Murmurs of conversation greeted that announcement.
Arnav raised a hand slightly. "Let me finish. Three of you have been selected to accompany the board of trustees and myself for the week. They are: Aman Mehra, Lavanya Kashyap, and Khushi Kumari Gupta."
Her friends yelped, congratulating her. But she couldn't manage a reply, staring at Arnav. Their eyes met from across the room. New York?
As he wrapped up the impromptu speech, his brow furrowed as he noted her head for the exit, dashing away as if she could not get far enough away from him.
*****
That evening, Khushi stood in her kitchen, confused and more than a bit torn. She tried to focus on the recipe book: it lay flipped open to page 56. Mixing the batter, she sprinkled in some seasoning, not even realizing when she stained her temple with some of the dough.
Step 4: Add flour. Stretching on her tiptoes, she reached for the flour canister, opening it with a twist. As she turned back to the recipe, she shouted, the flour slipping from her grasp and shooting through the air.
Arnav's frown intensified as he met her surprised gaze, standing before her in a simple sweater and jeans. Khushi's eyes though couldn't move away from the flour covering his shoulders and hair.
"Arnav? You're here?" A grin broke out as she stared at him. Khushi had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. Swerving around, she turned on the faucet and passed him a wet towel. "Sorry, I didn't hear you come in."
He frowned, dusting off the stains. "I have a key, remember?"
She nodded, doing her best to ignore him. He looked very handsome half-wet. It reminded her of being in the bathtub with him yesterday, his hands gripping her wet hips. Control, Khushi, she reminded herself. You're mad at him, don't forget!
"Why did you leave like that after the announcement?"
Khushi shrugged. "You told me I could leave remember?"
Arnav didn't look satisfied with that answer. Rounding past the countertop, he grabbed her by the elbow, bringing her flush against him. "But why did you leave so suddenly? You looked upset as you practically ran out."
She didn't feel like meeting his searching gaze, saying as she turned away: "It's not important."
He twisted her around, his dark eyes boring into hers. "Yes, it is, dammit! Everything related to you is important to me. Why don't you understand that?"
Her heart lurched at that icy remark, but she forced herself to remain expressionless. "I didn't want to stay and talk about New York."
"Why not? Aren't you the least bit excited about it? A week on the other side of the planet away from everyone."
She frowned at him. "It's a business trip, Arnav. For work! You should be picking the people who deserve to go, not whom you want with you."
She attempted to pull out of his arms but his hands tightened on her. "That's what you think? That I picked you because of our relationship?"
She avoided his gaze. "What else could it be?"
He laughed, a hollow sound that crackled with tension. "Khushi, I did choose the people who deserve to go. You're one of AR Design's most brilliant and hard-working employees. You find a solution for every damn task I throw at you. I chose you for that reason and that reason alone. Yes, we'll have time for some pleasure and business on this trip, but that wasn't why I selected you. You must know that."
At her doubtful stare, he sighed, cupping her face in his palms. "Baby, if it was just all about my desires, do you think I would have Lavanya tagging along? You know I can't stand her, but I still named her--because she deserved it. For whatever reason, she's been working extra hard lately."
Khushi looked into his eyes and read the truth there, shining plainly at her. A smile grew tentatively into a full-fledged beam. She hugged him to her. "Really? You chose me based on my work alone?"
He massaged her back, holding her tight against him. "Damn right."
She yelped, "New York! I can't believe it! We're going to New York!"
He couldn't help but smile at her enthusiasm. He bent forward for a kiss. "I can't wait either."
The kiss bloomed into something heated. Khushi turned her face aside, her breathing harsh. "Arnav, we can't..."
He kissed her again, full on the mouth. "Actually we could still, but I'd rather not when you're not feeling up for it. I can still kiss you though."
Khushi smiled as she looped her arms around his neck, finding his lips with hers. "Yes. Kiss me."
As he lifted her onto the countertop and stood before her parted legs, he did exactly that. Khushi lost herself in their kisses. She forgot all about the recipe book, still open to page 56: How to Make Homemade Pasta.
*****
The next three days passed like a whirlwind surprisingly. They would spend their time at the office and then every night, Arnav would arrive to the apartment. Along with packing and planning for New York, they would sit and talk over dinner, learning more about one another than ever before.
Khushi was beginning to love their daily routine. It felt like a real marriage. Part of her was still amazed that he turned up every evening, even though she still hesitated from being intimate with him. One night, she told him so over dinner.
Arnav frowned at her, picking up her hand. "Is that what you think? That I only want your body?"
She began to shake her head, but stopped herself. "Once, I did," she admitted in a low voice. "But not anymore."
He seemed to understand, laying a firm kiss over her palm. "I want not just your body, but everything, Khushi. Do you understand? I want everything from you."
Their eyes met and locked. Khushi could barely breathe. The current of emotions in his gaze threatened to overwhelm her. Even Arnav couldn't tear his eyes away. She looked so young and beautiful as she sat across from him, her hair tied up in simple braid and her body covered by a cotton, pale pink salwar kameez. He never wanted this moment to end--whatever it was.
The doorbell rang just then. Khushi tilted her head to the apartment door. "Your Italian food is here."
She'd tried several pasta recipes but it seemed her culinary skills weren't really suited for it. Arnav had taken one bite and thrown the rest in the trash every time.
He groaned as he got up. "Coming!"
The deliveryman looked vaguely familiar. "Mr. Raizada? Your bill."
Arnav reached for his wallet as the man gazed behind him into the empty living room. "Missus out of town? No dancing today? I--"
His words trailed off as he noted the blaze of fire shooting from Arnav's eyes. He gulped as he took the money.
"She's not your concern. I don't want to see your face here again--understood?" Arnav's frown deepened as he slammed the door on the man's whitened face. 
"Everything okay?" Khushi appeared beside him, looking confused.
He bent down and kissed her on the forehead. "Yeah, now let's eat, your stomach has been growling since I arrived." Smiling, she took his hand and he was helpless not to follow.
After dinner, they watched some TV. He preferred HBO crime thrillers and she wanted a Bollywood movie. So they compromised. On the screen, Nemo was talking to a starfish in a small tank.
"Khushi..." began Arnav.
She didn't answer. A faint smile crossed his face as he noted her sound asleep, her head pillowed on his shoulder. He turned off the movie and then smoothing back her hair, picked her up in his arms.
He set her on the bed and began to go, but she wouldn't let him. Even in sleep, her hand clung to his collar.
Arnav found himself smiling again as he kissed her on the lips. And then taking her small hand in his, he slipped in beside her. Khushi turned toward him instinctively, snuggling against his chest. He kissed her forehead and then dragging her close, finally closed his eyes.
*****
The day before the trip to NYC, Khushi was a bundle of energy. She went through her work in half her normal time, dying to be done. Hoping to talk to Arnav, she took the stairs to this curtained cabin, knocking.
No one answered.
Opening the door, she was surprised to see an empty office. Where was he? She walked toward his leather seat, her hand grazing the top surface. A blush tinged her cheeks as she laid a palm on the mahogany desk. She missed him. Missed their frequent intimacy.
But just a day longer, she reminded herself.
There were suddenly voices at the door outside, more than one by the sound of it. Khushi's eyes widened. She didn't want to be caught here, inside his cabin for no reason. And so she did the only thing she could think of: she hid.
*****
Arnav was silent as he walked into his empty office, Aman at his heels. He paused at the threshold, gazing about. It was odd, but he could have sworn Khushi was around.
Great, he told himself. Now I'm bloody imagining her around me at work too!
He turned to Aman: "Just make sure you keep Lavanya away from us. She can come for the meeting and party the last two days, but there's no reason for her to be there earlier."
The assistant nodded. "I'll have it arranged. Anything else?"
Arnav shook his head as he took his seat behind the desk. "That's all for now."
Khushi scampered backward as he drew closer, his long legs just a few centimeters from her. She remained hidden under the desk, willing Aman to go away.
Thankfully, he seemed to hear her silent plea. He left just then, his footsteps fading in the hallway outside.
Khushi relaxed, exhaling. She was just about to call out to Arnav when he whispered her name: "Khushi... You're killing me, Khushi..."
For a second she was sure he'd somehow discovered her under the table, but as he remained sitting, she knew that was clearly not the case. And then shocking her completely, what had started as a whisper grew into a full-fledged groan. She heard a familiar, clicking noise and realized that he'd locked the door and drawn the curtains.
Her eyes rounded as his hands suddenly appeared beneath the desk, going to his pants. Her pulse raced as she watched him lower the zipper, her name on his lips as he exposed himself.
Her mouth went dry. Her chest heaved.
This was the most taboo, private moment she'd ever witnessed. Her face burned with color, her body quivered and pulsed as she watched him touch himself, powerless to look away.
And then unable to sit still for another second, she reached forward, her hand winding around his hardness boldly.
Arnav froze at that searing touch and then wrenched out of the chair. His eyes were filled with shock as he bent down, discovering her hideout finally.
"What the-- Khushi?"
She blushed but extended her hand to him again, needing to touch him. He groaned even as he attempted to shift away. "Why are you-- Damn. Stop, right now, Khushi. I won't be able to take it and we can't--"
"We can do this," she interrupted, gazing up at him.
His eyes sizzled to midnight black. "You don't have to. I can wait."
She crawled out, drawing him back to the leather chair as she kneeled before him. Even as a rosy blush tinged her cheeks, her eyes sparkled as she met his dumbfounded stare head-on. "I want to."
He shivered, his desire burning out of control. He held out his hand and as she slipped her hand in his, he guided her palm down. They both were breathing hard, their heartbeats raging wildly.
It was the sweetest torture and yet he couldn't stop it. He wanted it all. Wanted her.
And so Arnav let her stroke him, caress him, and tease him, guiding her until passion blackened out everything but her: Khushi. The woman who'd taken over his every waking moment since he'd laid his eyes on her in Lucknow. And now she was here, kissing him with her full lips, taking him into her throat. Her touch was hesitant and gentle, and yet it brought him to his knees.
Arnav threw his head back and moaned out loud as she worked her tongue over him, sucking with growing confidence. Passion unfurled like wildfire. His hands clenched in her hair and his hips began to move on their own accord, pistoning. He couldn't look away from her, watching with hooded eyes as she took him deep again. And again. His shout was guttural as he came.
Khushi held him in her arms till the last tremors receded, pressing kisses to his exposed skin. Arnav wiped himself and reached for her, taking her firmly onto his lap. He no longer cared  that she was breaking down his every wall. That she was taking over everything. It seemed her warmth was more powerful than his ice. He couldn't get enough of her. "That was... so good, baby. So damn good."
Blushing, she grinned at him, looking utterly pleased with herself. "That's just the beginning. I can't wait for our trip," she whispered against his mouth.
He kissed her heatedly, tasting himself on her lips. His tongue slid past hers. "That makes two of us."
Secret Passion by TINA & Satina
Episode 10: Manhattan
Khushi had never flown first-class before. The plush leather seats, the ever-attentive staff, and the general roominess were strikingly different compared to the seats in the rear of the plane.
She sighed as she gazed out the small, oval window. It was still dark out. Except for the flashing lights of the plane, she could see little else.
The man sitting beside her was oblivious to it all. He was busy on his laptop, his hands typing up and editing key details for the conference.
Her heart tugged as she noted the look of tiredness on his face and the fine lines at the corners of his eyes. They'd taken a late flight and he hadn't yet rested, not even for a single minute.
Khushi traced over his familiar profile, wondering how was it he had so much energy? It seemed as if he was always up to something--work, plans, ways to annoy her or make her blush.
A soft smile crept across her face as she recalled his latest surprise.
She'd been packing, debating whether or not to take along the lingerie he'd gifted her not too long ago. And then he'd come behind her, holding out yet another bow-tied box.
She'd asked him what it was, but he'd just stared back at her broodingly, giving her no hint as she peeled away the shiny, green wrapping.
Inside had been a dress: a flowing, princess-style gown with see-through chiffon and tulle, elegant beading and a plunging neckline.
"It's beautiful.." The words had slipped from her unbidden. She couldn't possibly wear this, but playing with the soft material in her hands, she couldn't help but wish she could. It was just so dazzling, so utterly feminine and well... sexy.
"I can't wear this, Arnav," she insisted otherwise.
He circled his arms around her waist, kissing the side of her neck. "Yes, you can. There's a matching wrap too. I don't want all of you exposed. That's only for me to see."
A warmth shot through her at his blatant possessiveness. She forced herself though to focus on the matter at hand: holding up the dress with indecision. "But it's so fancy."
"You'll need it in New York. I've arranged some other dresses too--don't argue." Arnav could very well read the mounting displeasure in her gaze.
Before she could begin to argue or even question him, he turned away, lightly swatting her on her bottom as he left. "Hurry up, Ms. Gupta. We have a flight to catch."
"Arnav!"
He just winked at her from the doorway, sauntering off with that usual confident air.
She stared after his tall, lean form utterly bewildered. Her heart raced. And then with a quivering, she placed the lingerie inside her burgeoning suitcase along with the gown. Perhaps, she could put them to good use. A mischievous smile broke out at that thought.
"Miss? Would you like some tea or coffee?"
The flight attendant's voice pierced through the daze she'd fallen into. Flushing and doing her best to ignore Arnav's penetrating stare, she shook her head. "No, thank you."
She slumped into her seat as both the woman and Arnav turned away from her. What was it about this man that made her forget everything?
"Arnav..."
"Hmm?" He didn't even glance her way, focused on his laptop again.
She grasped his free hand in hers, entwining their fingers. "Can't you do this later? You need to rest too. It's late now."
He pulled his hand out of her grasp, shaking his head. Truth was he wanted nothing more than to shut off the computer and relax in her arms, but dammit, the presentation was not yet perfect. And he would settle for nothing short of that.
If only he was not so tired, he mused, fighting back a yawn.
It also didn't help that the most gorgeous woman he'd ever seen was sitting beside him, easily within reach, an adorable pout on her lips.
Arnav was drawn to those kissable lips. It had been four days since he'd had her properly and it felt like an eternity. He wanted Khushi so badly he ached. How was it that the more he had her, the more he needed her?
It seemed like a vicious cycle of some sort. Even that maddening, unreservedly hot and passionate desk encounter had only increased his longing.
Sitting beside her now, he tried his best to ignore the tantalizing memory of her kneeling between his legs, her hands and lips branding his very skin.
"Baby, please."
Her soft murmur pulled at his control. When she called him that, he wanted nothing more than to take her right there. Desire threatened to overpower him. Patience, he told himself. You can wait a few more days. No big deal.
Her hand rested on his thigh, squeezing. "Baby?"
Arnav bit back a curse as he turned to face her. What he saw made him pause.
Khushi was staring at him with that damn look of concern and blazing care again--the one that pulled at his very heartstrings. Her face was soft and angelic as she massaged his rigid thigh.
"The conference will go just as you want, Arnav. Please, don't stress so much."
He couldn't control it anymore. He had to touch her. Cupping her face in his palms, he bent sideways, finding her mouth.
The kiss was quick and yet, firm. Mine, it seemed to scream.
Khushi's cheeks were tinged with a beautiful rosy color by the time he forced himself to lean away. "Arnav!"
She looked around to see if anyone had been watching.
He turned off his laptop, reclining back his seat and tugging her against him. "Relax, Khushi. No one saw. It's quite private here, like I told you."
"Still," she said, nibbling on her bottom lip. "We're in public."
He pushed up the armrest between them and picked up the folded blanket between them. He drew it across both of them and then raised it over their heads. "Now is it okay?"
Khushi giggled underneath the blanket, running her hands across his bristly cheeks and chin. "Yes."
Arnav's eyes sizzled as he gripped her by the hip. "Ask me."
Her breathing hitched as her gaze focused on his chiseled features, pausing on the hard line of his lips. Heat shot through her as she recalled that mouth sweeping across her skin, missing nothing. It had been too long. "Arnav.."
"Go on.. ask me.." His hands slid upwards, cupping both her breasts possessively.
Her eyes sealed close. "Please.."
"Please what?" He toyed with her, his fingers teasing.
Khushi bit down on her lip to keep from moaning out loud. He knew exactly what he was doing to her and he seemed to be enjoying it. Well, so was she. She couldn't deny how much she desired him. Needed him.
"Please, Arnav... Kiss me... Touch me..."
Heat surged through both of them at those words. He was smirking as he slanted his mouth over hers, his tongue tangling with hers mid-air as his hand slipped under her top.
*****
It was nighttime when they landed at JFK international airport. Khushi walked through the crowd with Arnav's hand clasped in hers. Memories of the passionate kisses they'd shared kept flashing past her eyes.
How utterly scandalous had she been? Who would have guessed that one day she'd be ordering him to literally kiss her. Touch her.
And yet, it felt right. More right than anything else.
A black stretch limousine was waiting for them. As they climbed in and the driver shifted the gears, Khushi stared out the window with amazement.
New York was beautiful like this: the skyscrapers shining with lights and the sidewalks teeming with tourists, locals, and music. It seemed as if the entire city was still awake.
Arnav molded his body to hers, pointing out things to her as they passed them: museums, Times Square, his favorite Italian restaurant.
Khushi could barely follow. She was attuned to him entirely: his hand clamped on her waist, his husky voice, and more startlingly of all, his desire burning into her.
Swallowing, she tried to focus on the changing scenery. It would make more sense during the day, she imagined. She could barely wait to explore this new place with him.
Their hotel was a modern building and clearly five-stars going by its polished marble floors, architecture and general layout.
"We have reservations," Arnav told the receptionist, "For Mr. Raizada and Ms. Gupta."
The woman smiled at him--a little too charmingly for Khushi's taste. "Of course, Mr. Raizada. Your suites are ready. If you would just sign here."
As he signed, Khushi stiffened beside him, her body tensing. Had she heard the  woman correctly?
Suites? As in plural?
But it seemed to be true as she watched him accept multiple keycards. She tried to read his eyes but he just nodded at the receptionist and then curved his arm around her waist, leading her to the elevators.
As soon as the doors slid open and they were finally alone, Khushi turned to face him, hands on her hips.
"We have separate rooms?"
The man looked not even the slightest bit bothered, his eyebrow rising at her tone. "Yes."
A wave of disappointment crashed through her. She looked down at the floor, her shoulders sagging.
Arnav chuckled as he tilted her face to him, staring at her with quiet wonder. "I thought you would like it. You'll have your own suite just like Aman and Lavanya and some privacy too."
Privacy? From him? The man who knew her inside and out? Maybe once she would have wanted it--would have fought for it even--but not anymore. Any distance from him felt wrong. And she especially didn't like the thought of him not sleeping beside her.
Khushi held onto his hand as they stepped out on the top-most floor. "I thought this trip was business and pleasure."
He paused mid-step, staring at her in that same brooding way. "The business part is us having separate rooms, and the pleasure part..." He drew near, gripping her hip intimately as he pressed against her. "...is the connecting door."
"Really?" Even as she said it, a beaming smile was already breaking out.
He nodded, kissing the corner of her mouth. "Damn right. You know I can't sleep without you."
She did know, but for him to admit it to her, made her smile all the more.
Arnav dropped a kiss on her lips. "Your suitcases should be already inside. Go and get changed. I'll be waiting for you, baby."
He handed her the keycard, keeping an eye on her as they opened their separate doors at the same time. Sharing one last secret smile, they walked in, locking the door behind them.
*****
Khushi leaned back against the wood paneled door, a soft smile brightening her face still. Arnav Singh Raizada. The man planned everything perfectly it seemed. Her lips parted as she gazed at her surroundings.
The hotel room was modern and sophisticated with a giant, king-sized bed, a small sitting area around a fireplace, and an elegant floor-to-ceiling mirror.
Her eyes though went to the door that separated her from him.
"Khushi." His voice came from the other end. "I've unlocked it from my side, come over whenever you're ready."
"Okay."
Part of her wanted to race over that very minute and jump into his arms, but she made herself stop. Arnav had been teasing her the whole flight, could she not get back at him?
But how?
She slipped out of her travel-worn clothes and scrubbed her face clean. Opening her suitcase, the red, lacy lingerie was the first thing to catch her attention.
A shine came to her eyes as it came to her. Of course...
Arnav still thought she was out of bounds, believing that she still had her period. She hadn't told him otherwise yet.
Smiling impishly, she reached for the lingerie, tugging it on. It felt soft and alluring against her sensitive skin. As she padded over to the connecting door barefoot, for a moment, she hesitated, her hand pausing on the door knob.
Could she really do this? Be so shockingly brazen?
But then the memory of being under the desk, watching him as he groaned out her name came to her. A flush stained her cheeks. Strangely, that moment gave her the confidence to be sexy, to be feminine, something she'd never felt so strongly till now. Arnav desired her, and that seemed to change everything. She'd heard him. Seen him...
Taking a deep breath, she unlocked the door, stepping to the other side.
*****
Arnav was lounging back on the bed, his laptop balanced on his legs as he worked on some late-minute details. His hair glimmered midnight black and appeared still damp from a quick shower. He was wearing a black silk robe and matching pants, the vee of his chest exposed. His muscles glinted in the dim light.
As he heard the door turn, he sighed. Finally. Khushi was finally here.
"What took you so long? I--" His voice trailed off as he got his first good look at her.
She was wearing lingerie--the one he'd forced her to wear once. Red silk reached to just past her upper thighs, leaving her almost scandalously bare. The neckline dipped low, highlighting her curves.
He could barely breathe. He'd thought they'd sleep beside each other, as they had for several nights now, but how the hell was he supposed to keep his hands off her now?
Swallowing, he motioned her closer. "Why are you wearing that?"
Khushi shrugged, tossing back her waist-long hair--left open as he preferred. "I just felt like. Why? Don't you like it?" Posing before him, she jutted out her breasts.
Like? Arnav loved it, loved it so much all he wanted to do was tear it off of her and bury himself deep within her. He cleared his throat instead, trying to read her expression.
"Khushi, you know we can't. Are you trying to tempt me purposely?"
She didn't deny it. "Maybe. Is it working?"
Hell yes.
Arnav did his best to frown at her, setting aside the laptop and adjusting the blanket across his lap. "Just go change. And give me the remote, we'll watch a movie like usual."
Khushi began to frown but then her eyes lit up. "This remote?"
It was on the coffee table. With a naughty smile she turned away from him, and then bent low, picking it up extra slow.
His breathing grew ragged as he watched her. The slip was covering nothing now and the single, red string he glimpsed did not help much either. Damn, he wanted her.
She straightened just as leisurely, throwing the remote at him. The open-mouthed look on his face made her fight back a giggle. "There you go, baby. Pick a movie. I'll be right back."
Khushi had just reached for the door handle when he crashed into her from behind, grinding against her almost desperately. She moaned as he gripped her, his hands lifting her slip up and out of the way as his mouth latched onto her bare shoulder.
"Teasing me? Arnav Singh Raizada?" He pulled her tight against him, letting her feel just how hard he was.  "Do you really think I'll let you go after that?"
Khushi shuddered as she felt him move slight away. She thought he was perhaps letting her go, but the next moment, he was back, bare this time, his pants no longer between them. Skin met skin as he ground himself into her. Moaning, she found herself responding to his every movement, her body shifting feverishly against his. As he pushed his arousal into her, she pushed back, gasping at the friction. "We...we can't..."
Arnav swore as he drew back, breathing harshly. "Go change. Now, before I lose it."
He had just turned away when her soft laugh drew his attention. Her face was rosy as she met his puzzled gaze.
"Baby, I'm just teasing you. We can make love. Nothing's stopping us anymore."
He stared at her intensely. "Are you sure?"
She nodded breathlessly, her toes curling on the carpet. "Yes... I meant to tell you on the flight, but I didn't know how."
Arnav was across the room in two seconds, pulling her into his arms as his mouth settled on hers, capturing her startled moan.
"I want to make you mine."
"Yes," she whimpered between heady kisses. "I want that too."
It was all the permission he needed. Clutching her, he drew the slip over her head, picking her up in his arms without breaking their kiss.
As her back hit the mattress, Khushi pulled him down on her, wrapping her legs around his waist even as her hands eased under the silk robe. He was so smooth, his body faintly moist from the shower.
"It's been so long," he murmured as he kissed her, working his way downwards. "So damn long."
Her hands dove into his hair. "Please, Arnav..."
He looked up from her navel, smirking. "My turn to tease you."
And then as his hands and lips took over, and he tossed her legs over his shoulders, Khushi could do nothing but clutch the bedsheets, her heart pounding as he molded her to his liking. She couldn't stand it, he was pulling at her very control.
Thrashing on the sheets, she moaned out loud, his name on her lips. "ARNAV!"
He was on her again, his mouth finding hers. And then when Khushi could wait no more, he surged between her thighs, joining them without a hard, penetrating thrust.
It was fierce and wild, urgent and hot. 
And then as their passionate cries rung out, they could do nothing but hold onto one another, their tongues entangling.
Arnav pressed a firm kiss to her reddened lips and then drawing the blankets across them, held her trembling body close, still enveloped in her. She embraced him just as tightly, her breathing still harsh.
Finally, two halves were whole.
*****
A bright ray of sunlight hit Arnav almost directly in the face the next morning. Groaning, he rolled onto his stomach but almost at once, a weight fell on him.
Khushi brushed back his hair as she sat on his back. "Wake up, baby. Come on, I want to see New York."
He gritted his teeth as she squirmed on top of him. "Khushi..."
"No excuses allowed!" Smacking his muscled back, she straightened up.
He turned towards her, watching as she tugged on his red silk robe. The corner of his mouth tipped up at the sight of her dressed in his clothes. He liked it--more than he cared to admit.
"Get dressed," she insisted in a no-nonsense tone, though her eyes were shining with amusement.
He shook his head. "Let's just stay in bed today. I feel so tired."
Khushi pursed her mouth at him. "You're tired? You? Arnav Singh Raizada?"
He nodded, smirking at her. "It's your fault, Khushi. You were so damn persistent last night."
Her mouth dropped open. A blush tinged her cheekbones. "So were you."
He couldn't deny that. They'd both been a bit out of control. His eyes traced over her carefully. "Are you okay? I didn't hurt you, did I?"
Khushi shook her head, wrapping her arms around the silk robe. "No, of course not. Now, please get dressed."
"I have a condition," Arnav declared as he got up from the still-warm bed.
Khushi took a step backwards, her eyes widening as they slid over his bare form. "What?"
He pulled her flush against him, his hands sloping over the silk. "Shower with me first."
Her body pulsed, but she shook her head. "We'll get late like we always do and then you'll make some excuse and--"
He cut her off with a kiss. "I won't. Now, come on."
His palm stretched to her and Khushi couldn't help but settle her hand on his, their fingers entwining.
*****
By the time they finally made it outside, it was around lunchtime. So they bought some sandwiches and headed to Central Park. The impromptu picnic was just what Khushi had been wanting. Sitting beside Arnav, talking and watching the crowd, she felt more light and relaxed than she had in some time. Except for one small detail.
Her hand kept pulling at her hemline every now and then. The pale pink sundress he'd insisted she wear was knee-length with capped sleeves, but it still felt very different from her normal clothes.
"Stop it," he murmured as she adjusted the dress again. "You look beautiful."
Her heart squeezed as she noted the look of open admiration in his gaze. She bent forward, kissing his cheek.
Hand in hand, they went to all the touristy sites. If he'd been reluctant to go before, Khushi couldn't see it anymore. He was smiling as they took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, his arms encircling her waist. He even agreed to go to St. Patrick's Cathedral, standing beside her as she whispered a prayer.
"What did you ask for?" Arnav asked, watching her as they strolled toward Times Square.
Khushi shrugged, avoiding his gaze. How could she tell him that she'd prayed for her husband--for him to always be so happy and carefree?
Their night finished back in Central Park again, this time for a play. Banners hung from the treetops, pointing toward 'Shakespeare in the Park.'
As they took their seats, three rows from the stage, Khushi wondered if Arnav would be bored. But he surprised her.
Keeping a hand around her waist, he seemed to follow the story, just as involved as her. Tears pricked her eyes as the lovers on stage were torn apart, Juliet waking up to find Romeo dead beside her.
She cuddled against Arnav, strangely relieved when he squeezed her hand, rubbing his thumb back and forth across her palm in a soothing motion.
"Did you like it?" he asked as they took a taxi back to the hotel.
Khushi nodded at once. "It's such a tragedy, but still so beautiful. Them versus the world."
He kissed her forehead. "I like that--them versus the world..."
*****
The next day was decidedly more cloudy and raindrops kept falling every now and then outside.
"I think we should go to a museum," suggested Khushi as she sat cross-legged on his bed, going through the stack of brochures she'd gotten from the overly friendly receptionist.
"Good idea," Arnav murmured, pulling out one pamphlet in particular. "I pick this one."
Khushi's flew to the name and then back to him--flabbergasted. "The Museum of... Sex?"
He bit back a grin. It was funny how she struggled over that word. "That's what it says, right?"
She blushed as she wacked him with the brochure. "Arnav Singh Raizada!"
He pinned her to the bed, kissing her. "Fine, where do you want to go?"
"The Met," she said, laughing against his mouth. "They have an exhibit on insatiable men like you."
"Really? What about one on the tempting women who drive men to be so insatiable?" His lips trailed down her neck, peppering kisses..
Giggling, she pushed against his chest. "Baby, please."
"Ask me," he instructed.
She sighed. "Arnav, would you please let me up?"
He shook his head. "Ask me what we both know you really want."
She cupped his face in her hands. "Arnav, would you please kiss me and then let me up?"
He smiled down at her as he complied.
That afternoon they strolled through the sprawling museum. Khushi loved the displays on ancient Asia, while Arnav preferred the knights and swords section.
It was late when they got back to the hotel. "Let's just eat in tonight," he suggested.
Khushi nodded, parting with him at their separate doorways with a chaste kiss. "You order, I'll be right over."
Smiling at his puzzled expression, she walked into her suite, heading to the closet.
The black saree was just where she'd kept it. She slipped it on, and then opened the small bag of jewelry she'd brought along. The silver earrings and necklace matched perfectly, so did the anklets and bangles. As a final touch, she hooked a simple chain around her waist.
Brushing her hair, she stared at her reflection in the large mirror with amazement. The woman gazing back at her was slim and willowy, her makeup accentuating her natural beauty. The sparkle in her eyes and the glow on her skin was new. She felt utterly feminine as she stared at herself.
As Khushi walked into the adjoining suite, Arnav paused amid his call, going to her side with a glint in his eyes.
"Yes, Aman, I remember. Cocktail party two nights from now. We'll be there."
As he disconnected, his lips found hers. "You look beautiful. You know, in those dresses you looked amazing, but dressed like this--in this saree, you're so sexy and hot."
Blushing, she followed him to the sofa, sitting beside the fireplace. He placed his head on her lap and she stroked his hair tenderly, neither speaking much as they stared at the flames. It felt so peaceful like this, just the two of them.
A knock on the door sounded twenty minutes later. Arnav opened the door and tipped the deliveryman. As both of them opened the steaming boxes, he cursed under his breath.
"What is it?" asked Khushi. The food looked delicious and it was her favorite: desi.
"They didn't give enough plates," he grumbled, holding up a single plastic plate. "Let me call them back or ask the front desk."
But Khushi grabbed his hand, pulling him down beside her on the sofa. "We just need one plate."
He hesitated. "Are you sure?"
She nodded, sitting down cross-legged so she faced him. He turned as well, watching her as she filled the plate.
As she broke off some naan and lifted it to his mouth, his heart tugged. He stared at her mesmerized.
"Arnav?" That expression of his always hit her hard. He seemed so disbelieving, so sure that this couldn't possibly be real.
His mouth opened and he mechanically chewed. Khushi smiled at him and then in a move that started her completely, he raised his hand to her mouth, feeding her this time. Tears stung her eyes at the tenderness she glimpsed in his and she blinked them away, smiling all the more. It was easily the best dinner of her life, each bite one that she cherished.
Relaxing later on the sofa, Khushi laid with her head in his lap, her arm wrapped across his chest.
"Baby?"
"Hmm?" He was playing with her hair, his fingers teasing her as they brushed across her lips.
She kissed his hand. "Can we play that game again? The one where we kiss and nothing but our mouths can touch?"
Arnav seemed surprised. "And first one to touch the other in any way has to do what the other says?"
She nodded. "Deal, Mr. Raizada?"
He smiled as she sat up to face him. "Deal."
Their lips met softly but then she bit his bottom lip, demanding entry. He was smirking as their tongues entangled, his hands fisting with the taste of her. Kisses slipped into more till both lost track of time. Khush's chest was heaving, her mouth felt oddly swollen. And still she kept at it, her arms wrapped around her waist to keep from touching him.
But then as he switched from sucking on her lip to moving his tongue in and out of her mouth, she stilled. She knew very well what he was mimicking.
Unable to stop herself, she cupped his face, drawing him closer.
Arnav kissed her once, then again before pulling slightly back. His breathing was harsh, his lips moist. "I win."
Khushi didn't argue, pressing urgent kisses down his neck and chest. "What do you want, Arnav? Another full body massage?"
He shook his head, his hand plunging into her hair as he pulled her upright in his lap. "This time... I want you to dance for me."
Stunned, she could only stare at him. "Dance?"
He nodded, smirking as Khushi straightened up with a rueful smile. "I do know a few steps, remember?" She began to do the same Bollywood moves he recognized so well by now. Arnav crossed his arms across his chest.

"I said I want you to dance for meSo I get to pick the music." He picked up the room control, dimming the lights and turning on the stereo. Faint music sounded, decidedly slower and more pulsating.
Khushi's eyes widened. "I can't dance to this!"
He smiled. "Yes, you can. You're so sexy, especially dressed as you are. Now, dance, baby. Dance for me."
Staring into his soulful eyes, Khushi forced herself to overlook her inhibitions. She danced for him, straddling his hips as she rocked against him, her fingers trailing down his chest. Standing up, she glided backwards, her body swaying as she edged toward the bed. As he pulled her into his arms and she pressed flush to him, he couldn't keep his eyes off of her.
Their mouths were just about to meet when the song finished. Khushi slipped from his grasp, laughing as she went to the sofas. "Deal over, Mr. Raizada."
He was drawn to that glow on her face. Sitting across from her, his eyes burned into hers. "How about another game?"
"Which one?"
He picked up a deck of cards from the side table, shuffling. "Do you know how to play poker?"
Khushi shook her head. "I know rummy though. Jiji taught me when we were kids."
"That's fine, I know that one too. But Khushi, playing with me will not be like playing with your cousin."
Her breath hitched at the wolfish glint in his eyes, the way his husky voice lowered. "What do you mean?" she managed.
"Strip Rummy. That's what I mean."
"Strip--" Her voice broke off.
Nodding, Arnav moved aside the coffee table and pulled her down on the carpeted floor beside him. "It's just like rummy, but with each round, the loser has to take off something."
Khushi flushed, her heart racing. "I don't think--"
"Good. Then don't think," he told her, dividing up the cards. At her look of hesitation, he sighed. "Baby, look at what we're wearing, you have a huge advantage over me."
Khushi paused at that, mentally counting their articles of clothing.
He had on six things: khaki pants, green sweater, shirt, boxers, and a pair of black socks.
She on the other hand, outnumbered him easily with her saree, blouse, petticoat, necklace, bangles, waist chain, earrings, and anklet--not to mention her bra and underwear.
"Ready?" he murmured.
Taking a deep breath, Khushi picked up her cards. She was so lost in him, in the way his eyes seemed to read right through her, in that playful twinkle in his eyes, that she ended up losing the first round.
"I'll win next time," she told him as she reached for one anklet.
Arnav's voice stopped her. "What are you doing?"
She raised an eyebrow. "I lost, so I'm taking off something. That's how it works, right?"
"Yes, Khushi. But you see, the winner gets to decide what the other person takes off."
She stared at him with wide eyes. "You never mentioned that before!"
He shrugged lazily, winking at her. "You never asked."
"Arnav..."
"Khushi, no arguments. Please."
She sighed, rolling her eyes at him. "Fine, what do you want me to take off? The earrings?"
Arnav smirked, pointing to her saree. "Strip."
Her eyes rounded. "Baby, you can't be serious!"
"Oh, but I am. Now, Khushi, take it off--unless you want to forfeit."
"Forfeit?" Her eyes clashed with him. "I never give up, Arnav Singh Raizada." And with that, she reached for the end of her saree, peeling if off.
"Keep that waist chain on," he ordered, his eyes tracing over her as if he meant to devour her.
Khushi unwound the silky material, standing up. The saree fell to the carpet and Arnav pulled it to his side.
"Ready for round two?"
She nodded, shuffling the cards.
This time, it was him who couldn't concentrate. She was killing him as she smiled across at him, her light brown eyes reflecting the flames of the fireplace, her exposed waist and low-cut neckline all but daring him to touch and feel.
"And I win!" Her fist shot up even as he grumbled. His hands went automatically to his sweater.
"Hold on, Mr. Raizada. Winner gets to decide."
"What do you want off, Khushi?"
She smirked, biting her lip to keep from laughing. "Pants. Strip, baby!"
He was surprised by that request. Standing, he reached for his zipper, his gaze on her wide-eyed face as he stepped out of his pants.
"You're--" she couldn't continue.
"I'm what?" Arnav asked, lying back on his side.
Khushi blushed. "Aroused."
He shrugged. "You are sitting half-dressed across from me. I can't help it."
That third time, her eyes remained elsewhere. It was no surprise when she lost.
"Well, well. 2:1."
Khushi kneeled before him. "Just spit it out, Arnav. No need to gloat."
"Fine." His eyes traveled over her, pausing at a few choice places. "That skirt thing. I want to see your legs."
A blaze of heat shot through her as she stood, untying the petticoat. Black silk and lace was exposed to him.
"Sexy," he commented as she sat back down, trying to control her trembling.
"Thanks. You picked it out, remember?"
She didn't have to remind him, he vividly recalled shopping with her yesterday between tourist stops.
As the cards were dealt and each fought to win, Khushi couldn't help but stare across at him. He was so utterly focused.
"And I win--again," he declared seconds later.
"What?" She frowned at the cards. "You must have cheated!"
"No, baby. You were just distracted." He winked at her. "Blouse off now. Strip, Khushi."
Flashing her eyes at him, she reached for the front snaps, unhooking them. As the material parted, she threw the blouse at him. He caught it in one hand, his eyes smoldering as he studied her barely covered, lace-encased breasts.
The next two rounds he lost and Khushi demanded the sweater and shirt off. He was now left in nothing but black boxers and socks.
"You seem to be losing, Mr. Raizada."
"Not from my point of view."
She couldn't reply as he stared at her that way, her breath stilling. The following round, she lost, staring at the bare expanse of his muscular chest more than the cards.
"Bra. Let me see you, Khushi."
She was quivering as she reached backward, tugging off the lace. As she was finally exposed to him, both of them didn't say anything for a moment, their eyes locked.
And then as Khushi watched breathlessly, Arnav's gaze slid downwards, branding her with a searing intensity. Her nipples hardened. Goosebumps dotted her skin.
"Cold, Khushi?"
She wasn't. Actually, she felt as if she was burning under his careful watch.
"This is it, you know," he told her as he arranged his cards. "If I win this round, you lose."
Khushi shook her head. "I still have all the jewelry."
Arnav smirked at her. "That's what I wanted all along. You--dressed in nothing but all that silver jewelry. I want that--more than anything."
She could barely breathe, barely concentrate. It surprised them both though when she ended up winning.
"Boxers..." she whispered.
He raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure? The socks are a safer option.  It's a tied game now. How will you concentrate for the last round then?"
She didn't care about winning or losing. She just wanted him... needed him. "Very sure. Now, strip, Raizada."
His expression darkened as he slid the boxers off his hips, kicking them off. Her breath stilled as she observed him. Maybe he had been right, now how would she be able to concentrate? All she ached to do was to reach over and--
"Last round." He was completely at ease with his nakedness as he lounged on his side, spreading the cards out. "This one will decide it. My socks or that thong. Which one will it be?"
Khushi tried to focus, she really did, but it was impossible. Her gaze refused to budge away from him, especially when he kept shifting and angling towards her, as if to purposely drive her mad.
"And I win," Arnav declared, his lips curving as he lowered his cards. His eyes burned into her. "Take it off, Khushi. Now, before I tear it off of you."
She stood slowly, her body trembling and her eyes on him as she eased down the thin, delicate straps. As the slip of fabric pooled to her feet, she stepped out of it, standing before him entirely bare--except for the jewelry.
His gaze traced over her, missing nothing and then kneeling before her, he gripped her hips, spreading them and kissing her intimately.
"Arnav!" His name was a throaty moan on her lips as her hands clamped down on his shoulders.
"You're so beautiful," he mumbled against her inner thigh, biting lightly. "So damn beautiful."
She wanted to tell him that he made her feel beautiful, but just then he took her breasts into his mouth, suckling hard. And she could do nothing but hold on, shivering against him.
Her body had a mind of its own, writhing against him and building a heady friction. With an oath, Arnav drew her onto the carpet, the firelight casting shadows over their skin. His hands were gentle as he took off each piece of jewelry, leaving a string of kisses in his wake.
Khushi could no longer wait. She reached for him boldly, her hand wrapping around his thick arousal. "Now... please."
His breathing grew ragged as he stared down at her and then with a groan, he kissed her, impaling her at the exact same time. His thrusts were hard and fast as he set a merciless, pounding rhythm that made her shatter in his arms. She did not even attempt to resist it as she once had. Instead, she welcomed it, losing herself in his masterful touch.
As the rain fell harder outside, lightning striking every now and then, Arnav and Khushi held onto one another, feeling warm and whole.
"You're mine," he ground out, his eyes dark and serious as he surged within her to the hilt again. "Only mine."
She found his lips, arching up to meet his every thrust. "Only yours." Husband...

Secret Passion by TINA! & Satina
Episode 11: Raindrops
It was so extraordinary, mused Khushi as she sat on the ledge of the hotel's rooftop pool, her legs dangling in the heated water, how some people entered your life and forever marked it. Changing its very foundation.
It was something you couldn't always prepare for. Something that often happened by fate, luck, or random chance--whatever name you wanted to give it. But the point was: it happened.
He had entered her life and thrown everything into a confusing, maddening state of chaos. She had loathed him, disliked his controlling ways, and done everything to not fall into his heady embrace. She'd fought his pull every step of the way. Yet, it hadn't been enough.
In the midst of a passion that set them both ablaze, Khushi had learned so much about him--about the man he truly was. Better than anyone, she knew what nightmares haunted him still. Knew how vulnerable and emotional he was behind that hard, icy facade.
She had felt his heart, had kissed his soul.
Her breathing seemed to halt as she gazed at Arnav. He was swimming laps across the length of the empty pool, his every stroke powerful and perfectly timed. A ripple of bronze, his body was toned and distinctly chiseled.
As Khushi recalled every rousing, fiery moment she'd spent in this man's arms, a blush stained her cheeks. To think that she knew his body better than her own.
But it was true. She knew exactly where a small freckle fell just below his left hip. She'd kissed the scar on his eyelid and a second one across his knee many times. Some childhood accident, he'd explained vaguely.
Khushi had just pressed her lips firmer against each mark in answer, wishing she could wipe away every pain.
As Arnav's head broke the surface and he aimed right toward her, swimming vigorously, she couldn't help but curse the past that had hardened him so.
She'd seen an entirely different side of him the last couple of weeks: him teasing her, feeding her, cuddling her close. The warmth was unquestionable. Would he have been that man all the time if not for the darkness in his past, she wondered?
Her heart was both elated and afraid. She couldn't quite explain it to herself even.  But Khushi knew that Arnav had become an integral part of her--someone whom she couldn't imagine being without. It hurt to breathe when she considered not being with him.
Arnav stared at her intently as he swam between her swinging legs, bracing himself against the cool tiles. "What are you thinking about?"
His voice--low, husky, and full of quiet concern--sent a jolt down her. His dark, penetrating eyes and the water droplets coursing across his handsome features certainly did not help matters.
Khushi smiled softly as she brushed back his wet hair, avoiding his gaze. "About us."
"Oh really?" A handsome smirk flashed at her as he grabbed her legs, his touch searing. "What about us?"
Her eyes threatened to flutter close as his hands rose, massaging her calves and thighs. It took all her focus to form an intelligent reply.
"How unlikely we are... how unlikely this all is..." She glanced at him fondly, running her hand over his bristly cheek. "I can't believe we're like this: so utterly happy. I never imagined it."
Arnav turned his head sideways, laying a firm kiss on her palm. His eyes were warm in the dim light as he met her soft, awestruck gaze.
"I'll admit," he murmured, "Sometimes I can't believe it either. I did dream about all this though--ever since I saw you in Lucknow actually. But to actually have you lying next to me, your body soft and warm from our lovemaking, that gorgeous smile on your lips because you're genuinely happy being with me... It--"
For once, Khushi saw him at a complete loss of words. Beaming, she bent low, finding his mouth with hers. His hand plunged into her hair as he tasted her, neither able to get close enough.
"I am happy, Arnav. More happy than I've ever been in my life."
He kissed her again, his hands slipping under her white dress. "Me too.."
She quivered as his hand wandered higher, to the juncture of her thighs. Her eyes snapped to him, stunned.
"W-we can't. You have a conference call in 30 minutes and then we have to go to that Broadway show, remember?"
Arnav rolled his eyes. "That can all wait. This is more important. You're more important."
And as he pulled her into the pool, raising her high in his arms, she could only clutch him tighter, her arms and legs winding around him.
"I can't swim," she whispered.
He smirked, his fingers slipping inside her. "I won't let you go, Khushi. Never..."
Their mouths crashed together, tongues entwining as something powerful and beautiful ignited once more.
*****
The next morning, Khushi was surprised to see him already dressed and ready, sitting on the sofa, watching some sports channel.
"Morning," said Arnav as he spotted her sitting up on the tangled sheets. "I was going to wake you up twenty minutes ago, but then I thought you needed your sleep--especially after last night."
That teasing tone always caught her off guard. Leave it to him to remind her of their rather fiery and oh-so-scandalous activities last night.
"How thoughtful, Mr. Raizada."
Struggling to contain her blush, Khushi stepped onto the carpeted floor, wrapping one of the sheets around her body. She couldn't help but go to him. It felt like she had to touch him. Bending, she kissed his cheek. "I'll be right out."
Arnav smiled as he lounged back on the leather recliner. "Don't take too long. We have to go out of the city today. Let's try to avoid traffic."
*****
"Where are we going?" asked Khushi as a black luxury SUV pulled up at the hotel's main entrance.
She was surprised to see Arnav shoo off the chauffeur, taking the keys himself. He opened the door for her and then helping her with the flimsy, emerald green saree she was wearing, slipped into the driver's seat.
"To an old property owned by my dad's best friend from Oxford. Uncle is a history professor in Paris currently. He's letting AR Designs use his vacation home for the charity ball at the end of the week. I though we could go a few days early and check it out ourselves--alone." He reached for her hand, weaving their fingers together.
As they drove out of New York City, leaving behind the skyscrapers, the noise and crowds, both were still grappling with the new changes between them.
It was so very different from the first few drives they'd shared. At first, they'd not even spoken, the silence between them cold and often painfully awkward.
But now...
It was like they were on the same side, rather than enemies, thought Arnav.
He'd never hated or even disliked her. Truth was Khushi had forged a hold over him from that first heated argument in Lucknow. Those flashing eyes, heaving chest, and stirring innocence had branded him. He'd sensed her passion--it seemed to match his own.
Her vivid image had never left him, taunting him in the daytime, torturing him every night as his fantasies ran wild.
Arnav hadn't expected for her to ever care for him. He knew well what type of man he was: difficult and possessive with an infamous temper and notorious past.
But Khushi had shown him a different side of life... of himself.
Perhaps, he mused as he exited off the freeway, Life wasn't all darkness and sorrow. Maybe there was some light and happiness meant for him as well.
"You okay?" murmured Khushi, squeezing his hand. She tried to read his eyes, but he wouldn't let her. "I can put on that English radio station again if you like."
He raised her hand to his mouth, kissing her knuckles. "No, this is fine."
The loud Bollywood number she was currently singing off key and dancing in her seat to was not his type--not at all--but he couldn't take his gaze off her glowing face to really care.
It warmed his heart to see her so carefree with him, so completely at ease. This was an intimacy on a whole different leve, and he was surprised that he cherished it just as much as their most passionate embraces.
Khushi Kumari Gupta. How had she gained such a hold over him? Why couldn't he stop thinking about her? Why did he long to give her the world, if only she would remain at his side, her hand in his?
The feelings sweeping through him were completely unlike anything he'd ever felt. He'd never imagined it could be possible to care for someone so much, the need to see her happy and safe overruling all else.
What the hell had she done to me? wondered Arnav.
*****
As they turned into the quiet, private lane that led to the country estate, Khushi's mouth dropped open.
What had Arnav called it? An old property of his uncle's? Well, he'd certainly downplayed it.
The stone building facing them resembled a castle more than anything else, with acres of blooming gardens and even a lake situated nearby.
"Arnav! It's beautiful!"
He grinned as he parked at the front gate. "I'm glad you like it. It was one of my favorite places to visit as a child. I always looked forward to coming to Uncle's castle as I used to call it."
Khushi smiled as she stepped out, picturing a young Arnav running through the trees and gardens. "It is a castle. So were you a knight or something?"
He chuckled as he led her up the stone steps, pulling out a clunky set of keys. "You know what? I did play all sorts of crazy games here as a kid--knights, pirates... It was the perfect setting."
Khushi could just imagine that. As the door opened and she peered inside, Arnav winked at her, wrapping his arm around her waist.
"Come inside, fair lady. We have this castle to ourselves today."
"Yes, my prince." Khushi smiled, clinging to him.
She completely missed the stupefied expression on his face.
*****
Arnav gave her a grand tour of the entire property, showing her the massive ballroom where the party would be held in a few days' time and the small, quaint bedroom he'd used every summer as a child.
"Can we see the gardens now?" asked Khushi, gazing out the floor to ceiling windows. The sky had darkened outside, and colorful lights had turned on automatically. Each plant and tree was decorated in shimmery lights.
"It's so humid today, why don't I show you the pool instead? Maybe we can repeat our performance from last night."
Khushi smacked his chest, laughing as she ran out the glass doors into the main rose gardens. "You wish, Raizada."
"Is that a challenge?" And then he was chasing after her, running past hedges and ferns, his eyes never leaving her green saree-clad form.
Arnav caught her between the rows of roses, his arms circling around her slim waist as he swung her against him.
Khushi laughed, trying to tug herself free, but he dragged her closer, his mouth nuzzling her neck. His hands slipped under her saree, molding her to him.
The moment changed at once.
She froze, her heart beating wildly as he pressed into her from behind, trailing kisses across her shoulders.
A raindrop fell on them just then, making Khushi shiver. "Baby, it's going to rain."
He nipped her neck in answer. "I don't care."
As rain hit them again, cool and pleasant against their warm skin, Khushi leaned back against him, her eyes fluttering close.
"You know when I was young, I used to dance in the rain all the time," she mumbled, covering his hands with her own.
Arnav paused, his eyes tracing over her drenched form. She looked exquisite like this, the emerald green clinging to every curve.
With a single tug, he spun her in his arms, pulling her tight against him. His eyes locked with her surprised gaze.
"Then dance with me."
Something stirred in Khushi at the heat in his eyes, at the passion she glimpsed there.
"Yes," she whispered, "Always." Her breath seemed to still as his hands slid under her saree once more, wrapping with blatant possessiveness around her exposed waist. His palms were quite large and oddly warm, burning into her.
Her mouth trembled as he yanked her close, their wet bodies meshed so closely she could feel his every muscle.
"Put your arms around me," he commanded, his voice distinctly gruff.
Swallowing, Khushi did just that, her fingers slowly rising over his wet black shirt and curling around his neck.
In this position, they were even more aware of the other. Her breasts were smashed against the hard lines of his chest, while his arousal thrust against her abdomen.

"Arnav..."
"Shh," he replied, trailing kisses across her face as he turned her in circles, slow dancing with her.
Khushi was lost in him. Utterly and totally lost. In his passion, his care, his every movement and hot whisper. As he deliberately rolled his hips into hers, she gasped, throwing her head back at the heady friction.
He squeezed her supple flesh harder, his mouth sliding across the long slope of her neck, biting and teasing her. He licked away the raindrops, pressing kiss after kiss. Marking her as his.
"I can't get enough of you," he confessed, holding her flat against him.
She whimpered as he slid his hands to the back of her saree, massaging her curves.
"I ache for every part of you..."
Khushi shivered. They were still dancing, turning in slow circles as their bodies meshed together. Her eyes flew open when she sensed his hands move upwards, sweeping across her back.
"What are you doing?" she asked as he untied her dori.
Arnav smirked at her. "What do you think?"
His hand found the single hook of her blouse, detaching it. She was wearing no bra underneath, and he made a pleased groan at that, sliding his hands up and down her bare back.
"Your skin," he whispered. "It's so soft, so smooth... It burns me."
Khushi clung to him as he slipped off the blouse, throwing the flimsy green fabric on an old stone bench nearby.
A shout escaped her lips as he found her peaks, covering each with his palms.
"And these... I can't get enough of them either. I need to taste you...take you..."
He suddenly kneeled before her, throwing the emerad pallu aside and seizing her nipple in the searing heat of his mouth.
"Arnav!" Her hands fisted in his hair as he pressed closer, his tongue rolling across her skin and his teeth nipping as if he meant to mark her. "Baby, please..."
But he didn't respond, turning to the twin with the same blazing hunger. Khushi was barely holding on. Her hands slipped under his drenched shirt, her palms kneading the muscles of his back with building urgency. Her head rolled back, her eyes closed as the raindrops fell on her, cascading down to the man who rested between her legs.
Arnav was unwrapping her saree now, pulling off the layers of fabric with striking impatience.
"And this I really can't get enough of..."
"ARNAV!" A scream escaped her as he leaned forward and kissed her intimately, hooking her right leg over his shoulder.
Her knees felt weak. She would have crumbled and fallen into the rosebed if not for his unyielding grip on her. Arnav pressed more kisses against the very heat of her in answer, his tongue breaking her every wall of resistance as it flicked and toyed with her.
A rod of lightning flashed to their right. Thunder crackled loudly overhead.
Khushi was heedless to it all, clutching him to her. "Arnav!"
"I'm here," he whispered over and over, his voice soothing her more than anything else could have. He kissed her heatedly once more and then rose, his mouth findings hers.
They kissed again and again, their kisses growing frantic, but then more thunder sounded. The rain pelting them now was icier than before.
Arnav cursed suddenly. He picked up her saree and blouse and then swept her up into his arms, running back toward the castle.
The kitchen was warm and cozy as they entered, both of them dripping wet and shivering.
Khushi's eyes flew to the marble countertop, part of her sure he would set her down there. Passion still brewed between them--just as thick and mind-numbing as ever. It was like he had said, they couldn't get enough of each other. Every time felt like the first time... or the last time.
Arnav surprised her though, taking her in his arms down the hall and kicking open a mahogany door.
The bedroom was decorated luxuriously, its finery hard to miss. The sheets were white silk and a large net canopy draped the entire bed. Arnav pulled a cord and the canopy rose, sliding toward the high ceiling.
Laying her down with care, he pressed more kisses to her swollen mouth, his tongue dueling with hers.
She was about to pull him down on top of her, but he stepped back, throwing his shirt off. Gazing at her for one long moment, he turned toward the fireplace.
It took only one push on a small remote for a fire to spark to life there. Khushi slipped out of the rest of her clothes, rubbing her cold flesh.
Arnav, she noticed, was doing the same. He was unzipping his pants as he went to each candle stand, lighting over a dozen candles till the room felt bright and warm once more.
As he finally finished, blowing out the match in his hands, their eyes met from across the room. Hers were soft and gentle, and her skin seemed to glow against the white of the sheets. His gaze was dark and undoubtedly passionate, fire seemed to burn there.
As he watched her shiver, Arnav cursed, bridging the gap between them. His mouth was hard and firm as it crashed down on hers, his body covering her from her head to her toes.
Khushi moaned, looping her arms around him. He was so warm, his skin damp and sleek against her. She moaned as she arched upwards, burrowing closer. Her arms and legs wrapped around him.
Arnav reached for the cord again, tugging impatiently. Delicate net and lace encased them as they kissed passionately, the warm glow of the candles creating a play of light and shadows across their bare skin.
He suddenly flipped onto his back, making her straddle him. His mouth clung to her, one hand diving in her tousled hair as the other wandered between them, knowing just where to touch her.
"I want you, Khushi. Want you so much... only you."
Her mouth traced across his chest and lower still, kissing him intimately. "And I want you. Only you..." she echoed.
His gaze turned serious, his expression hardened. Arnav rolled her over again, this time bracing himself over her.
"Only me. Only ever me."
She wanted to reassure him, to tell him what she really thought of him. But passion overwhelmed all thought just then. As thunder rang out loudly outside and more rain fell, there was only him and her... feeling warm and cherished in his  powerful embrace.
Khushi could do nothing but hold on, her nails raking his back, her lips pressing urgent kisses to his mouth as they reached the heights of passion once more.
*****
It was much later that they finally left the canopy bed, laughing as they strolled to the kitchen.
Both had wrapped one of white sheets around their bare bodies. Their clothes had been set to dry before the fireplace.
Dinner was an odd mix of whatever they could find. The kitchen was well stocked, with several dishes already prepared. The staff must have arranged everything, realized Khushi.
There were ample plates and silverware as well. But they decided to share a plate again for this meal, wordlessly agreeing. Taking their filled to the brim china plate, a blanket and some candles, they headed to the old glass gazebo out back, their arms wrapped around the other's waist.
It was still raining, although the thunder and lightning had stopped.
As Arnav spread the blanket on the floor and lit a few candles, Khushi sat cross-legged, admiring the starlit night sky and the tall, lean man before her.
"You look very nice with that sheet wrapped around your hips," she commented.
His eyebrow rose. "Just nice? I thought you'd say sexy."
She rolled her eyes at that, smiling naughtily. "Keep dreaming, Raizada."
Truthfully, with his chest exposed and his hair starting to dry and curl now, he was undeniably sexy. The most handsome man she'd ever seen.
But Arnav seemed to catch her lie. He knew her too well it seemed. Over dinner, they talked and flirted, teased and laughed, much as they had at the apartment in Delhi.
"This place is magical," mused Khushi aloud. "The charity ball will be such a success for AR Designs."
He nodded, feeding her a spoonful. "I think so too. But mostly, I wanted to bring you here."
The warmth in his gaze stole over her. Her heart beat wildly as she raised the spoon to his lips. "Me? But why?"
He finished that bite, staring at her hard. "Because you're you, Khushi Kumari Gupta. The woman I--" He paused, seeming startled by his own words. "The woman who is special to me."
Khushi smiled at him as she cuddled against him. It was not quite a confession. But it was something.
Turning to face him, she crawled onto his lap, her lips finding his.
*****
The next morning as they drove out of the scenic property, Khushi was quiet, lost in all the beautiful moments they'd spent there.
Arnav sensed her sorrow. "Baby, we'll be back there in a few days. And we can return whenever you want."
She smiled, reaching for his hand. "I know."
The rest of the drive, she slept, lost in dreams of them, of a future she'd scarcely hoped for--till now.
It was hardest thing for Arnav to wake her up when they reached New York City.
The next few days were filled with meetings. After being blissfully alone for so long, with nothing but thoughts of romance and sightseeing, Khushi was a bit disheartened to see Aman arrive, along with his usual list of tasks.The only good part was that she was always at Arnav's side, no more than a hand's reach away.
As the sky began to darken outside, Khushi stifled a yawn.
Arnav though noticed, his gaze ever watchful. "Why don't you head to the suite? I'll be there soon," he whispered.
She smiled her gratitude, excusing herself.
Upstairs, she had a luxurious bubble bath, soaking herself in the marble tub. Her face bloomed with color as she recalled the last time she'd done this: at Shantivan, locked in Arnav's arms.
They'd been particularly insatiable that night, breaking the bed even. Giggling, she dried her hair and opened suitcase, looking for a night slip.
Khushi found what she was looking for--a soft, barely-there slip in midnight black. But a small box caught her attention too.
She'd forgotten completely about it. It had been packed last-minute. Changing into the slip and knotting the matching thigh-high robe about her, she sat at the vanity, her gaze turning to her reflection.
She appeared to be glowing, her eyes shining and her lips curved in a soft smile. Humming under her breath, she opened the box, taking out an even smaller container. Uncorking it, she paused for a second, staring at the crimson powder.
She'd never worn sindoor since the day he'd placed it in her parting.
But now...
Khushi stifled a tremor as she pinched her thumb and forefinger together, taking some of the blood red powder.
Her breathing was suspended as she pressed her hands to her parting--marking her as a wife. As his wife...
Tears came to her eyes as she stared at herself, feeling oddly whole and complete. She was so lost in her own thoughts, she never heard the footsteps draw near. Never noticed the door knob twisting behind her.
And then surprising her completely, the connecting door swung wide open. Arnav was smiling as he walked to her.
But then he froze mid-step, his eyes locking on her reflection in the mirror, narrowing on the vibrant sindoor.
She was shocked-still as well. Her face drained of all color as she watched his smile disappear and his expression harden.
"Why the hell are you wearing that?"
The words were spoken quietly, and yet that scared her more. She could sense just how furious he was. His eyes revealed everything.
"Answer me, dammit!"
Swinging to face him, she rose to her full height, hugging her arms around herself.
This was it. They both could not ignore this conflict any longer. It was time.
She just prayed their relationship was strong enough to face the storm that would surely follow. That every moment they'd spent with each other would draw them together and not apart.
Khushi's voice didn't shake one bit as she looked him right in the eye. Her gaze locked with his. "Because Arnav Singh Raizada, I'm your wife. And you're... you're my husband."

Secret Passion by TINA! & Satina
Episode 12: Storms and a Cocktail Party
"Because Arnav Singh Raizada, I'm your wife. And you're... you're my husband."
The words echoed between them like a dull roar as his eyes narrowed on her, gleaming with unchecked anger. His body was tense and unmoving.
And then his mouth twisted. Into something dark. Something she hadn't seen for weeks now. "The hell I am."
"You are," insisted Khushi, even as she noted the storm brewing in his turbulent gaze. "You are my husband."
His laugh was bark-like as he stalked closer, his hands fisted at his sides. As her back met the wall behind her, Arnav braced those masculine hands on either side of her head, glaring outright.
"We. Are. Not. Married. Khushi," he ground out through his teeth.
Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes, mentally counting to ten. What was this damn marriage nonsense? Why was she suddenly wearing sindoor?
His eyes snapped open after a pause, his voice on edge as he continued, "What's wrong with you? Everything was fine an hour ago and now--"
Arnav stumbled slightly backward as without warning, Khushi pushed at his chest. He hadn't once expected it. Something in his chest jerked painfully as he stared across the lavish hotel suite at her. Her face was paler than normal, her chest was heaving, and that damn crimson in her parting shone as vibrantly as ever.
Khushi herself didn't know what exactly caused her to lash out so. It felt like an odd mix of anger and despair. Something beyond her control.
"Fine?" she repeated, her voice cracking over the single word as she stared across at him, willing him to see, to understand. "Nothing is fine. And nothing will be fine until we face this. Arnav, you are my husband. And for me to act like nothing more than your girlfriend or lover is tearing me apart. I can't do it anymore! I can't!" She was shaking as she staggered away from him.
But his hand caught her by the elbow, swinging her to face him. His gaze hardened as he peered down at her. Khushi's breath caught.
It was as if the man who'd made love to her so heatedly and taken care of her every small comfort the past couple of days was gone. In his place stood the old ASR once more--cold and indifferent.
"I AM NOT YOUR HUSBAND, DAMMIT! Have you forgotten the contract? It clearly stated that there would be no marriage between us. Ever! And you signed it, Khushi Kumari Gupta! Do you need me to bring you a copy? Have you really forgotten?"
She shook her head, her hands clenching at her sides. It felt like his fury was fueling her own. "How can I forget the document that changed the course of my life? But you've forgotten one detail, Arnav--my condition. The sindoor. You marked me as your wife that night. So you see, I am not Khushi Kumari Gupta. I am Khushi Arnav Singh Raizada."
His hands tightened on her upper arms, dragging her hard against him, his expression darkening. "Sindoor? A bit of red powder changes nothing! We were never legally married. You are not my wife, Khushi! You're just my--"
As his voice trailed off, she pushed at his chest again, her heart clinching painfully. "I'm your what? Say it! ANSWER ME!"
"Enough!" bellowed Arnav as she slammed her fists a fourth time into him. His expression hardened. All of his control snapped. "You want to hear it, Khushi? Fine then. We can both pretend it's not true, but the fact remains that you are not my wife. Most people would call you my mistress!"

Even as her face grew pale, his eyes remained locked her with hers. The sudden sheen of tears in her gaze hit him like a full-blown slam in the gut. He'd never been able to stand the sight of her crying. More than anything, Arnav longed to sweep her into his embrace, to hold her close, but her words echoed in his ears, never letting him forget.
Why? Why had she suddenly dragged marriage between them? Why now? When they had grown so close, so inseparable.
"Don't you dare cry now," he ground out furiously, forcing her to remain in his rigid grasp. "You asked for it. Just like the time you signed the contract and every time you gave yourself to me, it was all done willingly. Don't act like the bloody victim, dammit. I've been honest with you from the start. The contract clearly explained--"
"Contract?" she interrupted, blinking away the tears that threatened to overwhelm her. No, Khushi, she told herself. You cannot break down. Not yet at least.
"You think I let you touch me, make love to me these past two months because of some contract?" Shaking her head, she declared, "The contract is meaningless to me. It always has been. I only came to Delhi, into your life and into your bed because of the sindoor, Arnav Singh Raizada. Because it bound us as husband and wife. I know sindoor means nothing to you, but to me..." Her gaze softened, her breath hitched. "It means everything."
Arnav stared at her, silent as he considered her. And then with a curse, he wrenched himself away, staring out the hotel room window at the brilliantly lit skyscrapers outside.
The bright lights felt like nothing more than cruel taunts. For him, it seemed like his world was dimming. Like the happiness he'd just begun to understand was being snatched for him. It hurt, stinging his soul like a thousand glass shards.
Khushi could sense his sorrow, his inner turmoil. She began to go to him, her hand outstretched but something stopped her.
Tears slipped from her eyes as she stared at his tall, lean form. Had she lost him? No, it couldn't be...
The air was thick with tension as both stood a slight distance apart, grappling with a pain unlike any other.
Khushi was the first to speak out. The cold silence was too much to bear. "Is that all I am to you?" she whispered, trembling. "A warm body in your bed? Your... your mistress?"
Arnav rounded to face her, pulling her into his arms. His fingers carefully wiped away her tears. "I won't lie to you. It may have started that way, but there was always something more--something we both denied for so long. We felt it right from that very first night together, didn't we?" He stared down at her, his face lined with tension as he held onto her, clinging almost desperately. "Every moment we've spent together--everything--those dinners, those games, our talks and our lovemaking mean the world to me. You mean everything to me. But baby, we are not husband and wife. And nor do I want us to be."
"But why?"
He stiffened at once. "Because marriage will ruin us. Just like my parents and my sister." Arnav cupped her face in his hands. "Khushi, why don't you understand? We have something beautiful and rare between us. Marriage is nothing but a slip of paper. Another contract that will destroy us."
Khushi couldn't agree. She clasped him to her, her eyes filled with quiet concern. "Arnav, I know that you've never seen a stable marriage, a happy marriage. But, baby, we are not your parents. We are not your sister and that despicable man she's bound to. We will give each other nothing but love, respect, and friendship. Our bond will only grow stronger with time."
Arnav wished he could believe the conviction in her tone. But life had taught him the hard way that there were no happy endings--not for him at least. The vivid memory of his parents' corpses flashed past his eyes. He breathed harshly, trying to focus on the woman beside him.
Turning away from her, he stared out at New York City's skyline, seeing nothing. His mind was elsewhere, trapped in the disturbing memories of Sheesh Mahal. The trauma of his mother's suicide still felt fresh, the wound seeping within him.
"Maybe not. Maybe we're not like them. But one day, we could be. Maybe not in the first six months, maybe not even in six years or sixteen years, but eventually we may be no different." He ran a hand through his hair, glancing out of the corner of his eye at her. "Why? Why can't we keep things as they are? I thought you were happy with me."
Khushi couldn't stop herself from going to him, grabbing his hand and bringing it to her lips. "I am happy being with you--more happy than I've ever been. True, in the beginning, I never meant to come close to you. It wasn't what either one of us planned--but now that it has happened, I need to be your wife, Arnav. We can't go on like this. Think practically, baby. For how long will we keep my family from finding a husband for me? How long will we keep our passion a secret?"
Arnav's lips thinned. "I took care of that Karan. And if your family tries something else, we'll handle it. We'll cross that bridge when it comes. Why fight over it now?"
"I'm not fighting with you," she broke in.
"Yes, you are, Khushi. We both are. See, this is what marriage does. I've seen it happen so many times."
Arnav's eyes closed as he forced the hideous images away: his mother lying on the glass tiles in an ever spreading pool of blood, his father dead, his sister distraught and broken, and the resounding echoes of a gunshot never leaving him.
When he opened his eyes, there was a detached steeliness in his gaze. Something that made Khushi's heart drop.
"I will discuss this one final time with you, Khushi. As far as I'm concerned, marriage is nothing but society's stamp of approval. And you know that I don't give a damn to all that. So either you choose us or you choose them. The choice is yours."
She gazed into those suddenly shuttered eyes, trying to find a hint of hope, something to latch onto. But saw none.
This was it, she realized. She would have to bare everything to him. It was the only chance she had left. Standing tall, she faced him head on, tears in hers eyes. And then she said the words that two months ago she'd never imagined she'd say aloud--to this man. But she could no longer hide from the truth--her heart wouldn't allow her.
"Arnav... I love you. Love you more than I thought it was possible to love someone... You know I'd choose us over anything and anyone, but baby, marriage means something to me. It means trust, and faith and love. I want to be able to call you my husband in front of the world. I need that."
He didn't react, only the muscle tightening on his jaw gave anything away. "I can give you everything, but not that--you know I can't."
"Please just consider it once. I know if you'd just think about it--"
A world of pain reflected in his eyes as he met her troubled gaze. "I want you to be happy, Khushi. And foolishly, I thought I could be the one to make you happy. But I see now that I can't."
She started to argue but his voice cut in, striking into her. "I'm breaking the contract between us," he declared. "This very moment."
Khushi froze. The contract had never meant anything to her, but it did to him. Her heart squeezed painfully, a sudden fear beginning to choke her.
"Meaning?" she whispered, her voice wobbling.
He was all business. "I need time to decide. Tomorrow morning, 8 AM I'll tell you my decision."
Arnav left her suite then much as he had come, striding across the connecting door. His eyes met hers for a brief moment as he shut the door. The sound of the lock turning hit them both like a sharp jab.
With a broken cry, Khushi slipped to the carpeted floor, hugging her bent knees. Why? Why did it feel like she'd lost him already?
Sobs threatened to overwhelm her. She bit her lip to keep them at bay, shaking terribly. He would return to her. He had to. If their bond was strong, he would return. Khushi clung to that faith, repeating it like a litany.
It was easily the longest, darkest night of her life.
*****
Arnav took a deep, shuddering breath as he turned the lock and entered the adjacent room, his tightly restrained control finally breaking.
It hurt. Hurt so damn much.
He'd thought that he no longer had a heart to feel such pain. That he'd steeled himself, made himself indifferent to such mind-numbing agony years ago. But Khushi... she'd fallen into his world and changed its very foundation. She believed herself in love with him, but he knew better. No one could love him--ASR. He was beyond redemption.
He stared at the closed door between them. It felt like she was so very far from him already.
Part of him wanted to go to her, to hold her close and kiss away her every tear. She was crying, he knew. Perhaps sobbing even. It killed him that he couldn't go to her.
Falling back on the bed, Arnav knew that he would not be able to sleep tonight. Why? Why was she so adamant about marriage? Was he not enough? Was what they had not enough?
Perhaps, she's right, he mused. Perhaps they wouldn't turn out like his parents or his sister and brother-in-law. But could he take that chance? Wasn't it better for her to cry now then to suffer a lifetime of grief later?
The Raizada name was a burden--a curse--and Arnav loathed passing it to her. She deserved better.
But he knew that he could not live without her. Khushi had become a part of him, embedding herself in the empty recesses of his scarred, damaged heart. Could he stand to lose her? The same selfishness that had caused him to draw up the contract in the first place once again roared to life.
And yet things had changed since that dark night. He had changed, in ways he scarcely understood himself. All because of Khushi.
Could he stand to see her unhappy, he asked himself? Khushi wanted marriage, and he knew without a doubt that he could not give her that. Not now. Not ever.
Marriage. The word alone sent a barrage of horrible images tumbling through his mind.
It would be a long, sleepless night, he realized. Without her in his arms, there was no peace, no light.
Arnav had never felt more alone.
*****
Khushi was pacing in her suite, dressed in a simple black dress. She'd applied several layers of makeup to conceal her unnatural paleness, but there was no hiding her reddened, teary eyes.
Nerves racked her as she glanced at the clock: 7:57 AM.
Please, she prayed. Please, let him agree. I can't bear to think of the alternative. Please, keep my faith.
A knock sounded exactly three minutes later. Her hands felt clammy as she turned the lock, reaching for the doorknob. It hurt to breathe suddenly.
Arnav stood before her, dressed in a crisp, steel grey suit and black tie, appearing the picture of perfection. After a night away from him, Khushi wanted nothing more than to throw herself into his arms. She'd missed him intensely. Ached for him every second.
But his outstretched hand stopped her. Khushi frowned at the envelope in his tight grip.
"Arnav? What is this?" she asked, even as she took it from him.
His face gave nothing away, even his gaze seemed unreadable. "It's over," he announced without pause. "We're done."
Her head whipped toward him, her eyes widening as she saw how dead serious he was. "What? Arnav, baby, no--"
"It's for the best. You wouldn't be happy without marriage and I can't give you that."
She started to tell him that she didn't want marriage if it meant losing him-- she just needed him. Only him. But his icy, business-like demeanor silenced her.
"You owe me nothing more, Ms. Gupta. You're free from me. As far as your role at AR Designs--that is again your decision. There are plane tickets in the envelope. You can go back to India or you can remain the last few days here for the conference. The apartment keys are there too--its yours."
Something shattered deep within her at those words. She drew out the keys, handing them back. "I don't need any favors from you, Mr. Raizada."
His jaw clenched but he did not argue as he took them from her, careful not to touch her hand. He couldn't let himself falter now. This was best for her, he reminded himself. She may not realize it now, but later she would. How selfish could he be to tether her to someone as damaged as him? The man he was before he'd met her would have snatched her, would have jumped at the opportunity to make her his without thought. But she'd changed him. He now cared for her above his own selfish desires. Even if it broke him, he'd free her.
"Your choice, Ms. Gupta."
It hurt her to even look at him. To see him so unaffected, ready to leave her without any hint of emotion. And yet, she couldn't look away. Her heart sensed he was hiding something.
"Don't do this. Fine, you don't agree that you're my husband, but we made so many promises--never to leave each other, to always be there for each other. You told me that I'm yours! You promised me. How can you walk away from that? From me?"
It took everything in him not to react. The pain in her voice struck him deeply. "You'll learn to live without me, just like I will. And one day, you'll realize that this was best. That you're better off without me."
She could take no more, it was too much. "Leave me, Mr. Raizada." As he remained unmoving, the first hint of emotion entering his eyes, she screamed: "LEAVE!"
He took one step toward her, and then catching himself, turned away, marching toward the elevators.
As the metal doors slid open and the floor beneath his feet descended several stories, a single tear slipped his eye.
So it was done. He'd lost everything. Had broken her heart, her trust with his very own hands.
He'd thought it was the right decision, to free her from him once and for all, but why then did something so right feel so wrong? Why did it instead feel like the biggest mistake of his life?
*****
The first meeting that morning was scheduled an hour later over breakfast. The Bradley Group was a reputable fashion firm and AR Designs was hoping to gain a key contract.
It was always contracts, mused Arnav as he sat stone-faced at the head of the table. What else was he good at?
And then he sensed a rustle outside the door. His heart sped as his gaze swerved to the doorway. Khushi stood watching him, her face for the first time difficult for him to read. There were no hints of tears. She was keeping every emotion in check, he realized.
Aman began to rise so Khushi could take her usual seat beside him, but he shook his head just slightly. His assistant frowned as Khushi instead took the corner seat, not even looking in their direction. Arnav said nothing, feeling like his heart was being ripped apart. To be so close to her and yet so far--the gap seemed unbridgeable. And that hurt worse than he cared to admit.
As the meeting began, Khushi attempted to focus. She would be professional about this, she reminded herself. Although she'd been sorely tempted to leave New York at once, she'd forced herself to remain.
He'd chosen her to come for work as well as pleasure. And she would do her final duties as an employee before leaving.
It was painful to sit there, to listen to his familiar voice discuss and chat away. Was he really so indifferent? Did she mean so little to him?
But then as her eyes closed and the vivid memory of his hesitant smiles and fervent caresses came to her, she was confused again.
That couldn't have been all lies. But then where was the man she loved so dearly?
Khushi sighed as she pushed away her cup of steaming tea, her appetite gone. She was so determined not to look his way that she did not notice that he too was not eating.
The day that followed was long and tiring. To be so near him and for him to stare right through her blankly, as if they'd never spent a moment alone, let alone been intimately entwined, hurt her deeply. To hear his voice, but never directed to her, stung.
By the time evening set in, Khushi was mentally and physically exhausted. It was difficult to keep her pretense up, to remain just as unaffected and uncaring.
And yet, she could not relax. A cocktail party had been arranged for the evening with the Bradley Group and several other companies.
Khushi showered and dressed mechanically, selecting a simple, red saree. She placed sindoor in her parting as well, but was careful to arrange her hair so it was virtually impossible to notice.
The faint sounds of conversation and laughter greeted Khushi as she entered the hotel's banquet hall. Intermingled with waiters and other staff, she recognized only a few of the guests.
Aman stood talking with some of the same people from breakfast, going over something on his iPad. Lavanya had arrived hours ago and was smiling widely as she giggled with some friends, her hand curved around the flute of a brimming wine glass.
And then as the crowd parted, Khushi saw him--A. S. R. He was dressed impeccably and in deep conversation with the head of the Bradley Group and his son. Everything seemed to fade as she stared at him, her eyes longingly tracing over him despite everything.
He suddenly looked her way, freezing as he met her teary gaze. His eyes swept over her, growing turbulent.
And then he turned his back to her, his hands fisting hard at his sides.
Khushi couldn't bear to be there another second, to join the party surrounded them. It all felt irrelevant. Taking a deep breath, she slipped out the backdoor, walking blindly.
Stormy eyes observed her every move.
*****
Arnav found her near the hotel's small garden, steeped in shadows as she stood gazing at a shallow pool, her arms wrapped around her waist. He didn't know what had caused him to follow her out here. He hadn't meant to. But it seemed he could not stay away. It was beyond his control.
Khushi quivered as she spotted him, walking up to her. Her heart beat painfully. Hands clenched on the fine material of her saree.
Neither spoke as he backed her against the wall, his body covering hers. His hand trembled as he cupped her cheek, his thumb skimming over her lips.
"Arnav..."
He bent closer, his mouth a hairsbreadth away. She wanted to give in, but at the last moment, she forced herself to turn away.
"No... We can't."
Arnav was past caring. He kissed her cheek, her temple, the smooth slope of her neck. "I can't stop thinking about you. I've been aching without you."
She trembled at that confession. A tendril of hope emerged. "But you're still living in the past. Still letting it stand between us. I want your present, Arnav. Your future. And you're not ready for that..."
He didn't deny it, gripping her waist tightly. He wanted to give in, but the dark shadows wouldn't leave him.
"I'm sorry," he muttered as he turned away.
Khushi wiped a tear as she watched him go. He would return, she vowed. He had to. If their love was true, he'd return to her. Despite everything, she clung to that hope.
*****
The dark eyes that had once watched Arnav and Khushi leave Raizada Mansion with dislike and animosity dialed a rather long number.
In the cocktail party, an unassuming, hired man in a black suit picked up.
"Hello?"
"Well? Is there anything between them?" The voice was shrill.
The man shook his head, taking a leisure sip of red wine. "I've been watching them carefully the entire party, they hardly look toward each other, let alone speak. Are you sure they're a couple?"
"Don't you dare question me! Just do what you're paid to do."
"Yes, Ma'am."
The woman smiled as she disconnected the call. Arnav and Khushi were either over or she'd been wrong from the start. Either way, could there be any happier news?
For the first time in weeks, she'd sleep soundly.

Leave all your comments on the 'Comments' Page!
To read the next Part, click tab above 'Secret Passion 13-19'
I wonder how you felt about the update. Hope it came across as realistic. As much as me and satina are fans of happy endings, we both agreed that Arnav couldn't so easily agree to marriage. The word involves too many old demons for him. I hope you look at this chapter once from ASR's perspective--that he set her free. Unknowingly or not, the contract did shackle Khushi in our eyes.

139 comments:

  1. oho dadi ji is pathetic, degrading her own blood like this in such a situation.
    ahh the helplessness of anjlai, u make me hate her with this attitude of hers.
    awww khushi came not thts someone i like, some one who might not be perfect as per the social standards set by dadi and her types but someone who have the courage to own her mistakes and work for wht she wants.
    ok we now get it how it all started but i would like to know actually why he started meaning what compelled arnav to do that, just her physical beauty?

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  2. Wow. I am first. I loved it. You brought the essence of the show with your own twist and I loved it. I hope shyam doe not lust for Khushi. You kept the central idea intact.

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  3. I love it. I can't wait to find out what happens next. I am stalking this blog

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  4. U r one hell of a writer...awesome update... Cant wait for the next one....

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  5. awesum update loved there first time lovrd his concern for her even in very bigning sindoor gave her lil bit courage n satisfaction she is not completely wrong n help her to gave herself to him lil less guityly i think soo cuming to anjili i really feel bad for her that snake is really gud for nothing how long arnav can keep him feeding him money to keep his dii happy gud to see khushi came to arnav when he need her the most n really hope that lusty beast shyam dont lust over khushi eager to know bout anjili accident precap is too interesting

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  6. comment no 5 was frm mee rooshan frm IF sry forget to write my name cant hepl ur writting make me forgot every thing hehe bye gud day

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  7. this was awesome.....she accepting him as her husband is not too soon....but yeah itll be another ball game to make arnav accept the fact that she could be his wife and their relationship can get a name through marriage...but yeah arnav is too broken...i hope kushi fix him...whats with anjali and her accidents..and shyam is a sicko...i hope khushi would be safe since now she has entered the hell hole..but how is she going to present herself as arnavs wife...i think nani would be fine but dadi would make her life miserable....she doesnt even care for anjali...
    loved their first time...he was ccari and yeah he applied sindoor on her..
    yush

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  8. loved it loved it tina its jst awesum. And thnx 4 making ur blog public. U r really a one hell of a writer. Waiting 4 the next update.

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  9. khushi is their for arnav when he needs her the most. i hope snake doesnot starts lusting over khushi. urghh what daadi is doing over their. she is supposed to be in the ashram. loved how khushi handled everything in their first meet.

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  10. Awesome.....one thing is clear married to each others but not caring for each others is far worse then but khushi and Arnav doing......

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  12. it was mind blowing. .arnav was so gentle to her at their first time...Please update with out delay. .u r a fabulous writer

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  13. That was Fab!!

    Hmmm!! there is too much of pain hidden behind that passion!
    Though different in nature...

    Okie Khushi comes to RM? gawd! guts she must have !
    i nearly thought he was gonna kill her for turning up at RM! :)

    But lets see what happens next!

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  14. I always wanted to know what her condition was
    now I know, he applied sindoor marking her as his wife

    I loved how you incorporated the robe scene from the "LOST PROMO"
    into your story

    Arnav really feels alone without her

    No wonder he is marriage phobic considering his totally dysfunctional
    family

    first his parents, then his sister and his evil brother in law, let's not forget his
    delusional Dadi

    God Khushi is the only sane person in his life

    And I don't give her wrong in her accepting him as her husband, he did
    apply sindoor on her maang and they both have feelings for each other

    He may have forced the contract on her but not himself
    He made sure she wanted him too and agreed to the final act
    of sleeping with him

    ReplyDelete
  15. its amazing, wonderful. doont hav words to explain how much i liked it. u r an awesome writer. loved it

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  16. that was amazing thanks for the flash back! oh man what is the matter with anjali? man poor arnav he has to pay that creep shayam just to stay with anjali aawwwww......khushi came to arnav loved the update thanks so much!


    IF ID:-IPKKNDbigfan

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  17. Awesome update. No, Khushi is not wrong in thinking of Arnav as her husband. Her upbringing and values helped her to add the condition in the first place - helped her appease her guilt on signing the contract. Made it easier to accept Arnav under the circumstances. In her heart she could not have done it without the sacred bond between them.
    Glad that Khushi recognizes Arnav's needs. And has acted on it demonstrating her loyalty to him. Shyam seeing her and lusting after her will definitely make the story more interesting and may even force Arnav's hand to get shyam out of the picture. Anjali, if I am to guess here is suffering from Munchausen syndrome. Am I right?

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  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  19. yoooooooooooooooooooo amazinggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg...update soonn

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  20. I really love the way both arnav and khushi have changed.Fantastic update !

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  21. This is shocking!!!
    Payal is married to Aakash? and she lives in RM?
    How did this all happnen?

    So Shyam would not have seen Khushi before this?

    Oh man! This was passionate filled update! Gosh! He is excessively insatiable! I tell ya!

    So the family already likes Khushi! But for Dadi offcourse!
    I am sure Dadi is gonna create issues for Khushi now! which may lead to some sorta announcement from ASR!
    Right Gals?

    Thanks for the surprise update!! I luuuurved it!! :)

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  22. evil dadi....waiting what announcment Aranv will make

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  23. loved both parts,
    hate Dadi so much,
    so, Arnav hates the constitution of marriage but khushi family will eventually blackmail her to get engaged or something and that'll drive Arnav crazy, i hope he agrees just for that reason
    can't wait to read more
    thank u so much for the pMS:)

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  24. ow she spent the night at RM

    Anjali and Shyam deserve each other they are really parasites

    God Dadi is hateful

    Payal is so clueless

    Gosh they certainly are falling in love but can't admit their feelings

    can't wait for the announcement

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  25. So when he made contract with her....he also arranged marriage of Payal to aakash....so everyone know that she work at AR but nobody knows that they are sleeping together.....you are a very clever writer.....every thing same as ipkknd but yet not same...here Arnav knows shortfalls of his sister and brother-in-law....so no chance of mu .....wonderful

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  26. u actually posted a new chapter, wow now that what makes a reader happy such regular regular awesome awesome updates.
    yes its too early and yes heart never listens to logic and thts why its heart and not mind.
    this chapter was really beautiful, all the small underlying aspects which indicates there care n concern for each other. the facts tht he was considerate enough to ask her to undress knowing wht will happen if he will do was shoo sweetly meaningful for me. i just loved the end.

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  27. Tina,beautifully written!
    Many thanks!

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  28. omg tht was perfecccccctttttt
    damn it this 2 will be the death of mine
    i now want them to be husband n wife lol
    n i want Arnav to feel the same abt the husbad wife mattar like khushi

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  29. Awesome update !!! they really had very wild night.. breaking bedwa.. wow.. loved the update..

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  30. Just read the last 2 chapters.... wow amazing... so khuhsi(her heart) already thinks of him as husband .. wow... loved it... really looking fwrd to the next chapter

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  31. I must admit, this is too good, update sion and how will I be notified about your update

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  32. Amazing update....you definitely conveyed how this thing they have between them is so much more than physical for both of them...as with IPKKND, while Khushi is more amenable to accepting him as 'husband', Arnav might do an ASR and go into denial...hope that doesn't happen though....enjoying the read, you are a fabulous writer, Tina. Keep it up...and yeah....definitely update soon!

    Anupama

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  33. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  34. Oh wow..they r so much in love..loving every new thing bou dis ff..m really loving d way u r a
    Sketching out every character.. us like my shameless story..
    Gud job babe
    Barun-myladdu

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  35. double updates?! woohoo! they were awesome!!

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  36. awesome update
    they are just perfect for each other............soothing each other
    he wants to protect her from everything(Shyam, Dadi etc)........so touching
    and also getting better at expressing their feelings

    GunM(IF)

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  37. OMG that was amazing i loved it loved their little confession i hope they realize they love each other i hope arnav decides to marry khushi! thanks so much for the quick update!

    IF ID:-IPKKNDbigfan

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  38. wow what is that look as if he is going to eat her,continue soon.................................

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  39. Would love to get in his head too.....what he thought of her need for sindoor, then, and what it means to him now, if anything.

    I love the bond they share, and have accepted mutually, as a life line for each of them.

    A Beautiful story..............

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  40. u happen to be 1 of the best writers i have come accross....!
    u should write books....! m sure they will be bestsellers...!
    abt the updates amazingly written.....!
    IF-ID : Beri

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  41. amazing update...they both love each other so much ..excited for the next updates ...loved it :)

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  42. just read you updates. nice.

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  43. Hey Tina,

    I just read your multiple updates for S.P (thanks for the double treat!!). Ive always wondered when I read this story what happened to KKG's morals and values that defined her character in IPKKND, but thought maybe you wanted to portray her character differently in thia particular story. But then you revealed the secret clause and I felt that its defo fitting of her to do before signing the contract!

    I love how the two chapters are showing how their relationship is gradually changing from lust to passionate love.

    Looking forward to the next update!!

    M x (i.f: mayzz)

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  44. Hi Tina ,

    Super Duper Story it is ! now now when i was grieving abt Shameless ..that it ended and I couldn't read any other story of yours but then I tried Mind games , Secluded Island , Secret Passion , Desert Heat ! my my I cannot get enough of it !!! Please do continue soon ---- I Love all of them !!!
    Are you going publish ? Cause you should ! they are amazing !!!
    Let me know if you do !

    Mind Game : It was a Amazing idea of telepathy ! Oh God it was so so so amazing , taffy is so cute ! and now they are on their honey moon .. looking forward for more and more romance *blush* anyways I love the caring Arnav over there !!!

    Desert Heat : Historical Romance ? Its sizzling ! the way you portray their emotions and desires and their own characters ! I loved it , each bit of it !Continue soon .. I cannot wait simply !

    Secret Passion : The Dark tale of ArHi with your magical touch ! I was completely blown by it too .. you are amazing did I ever mention ?

    Secluded Island : Hmm the chapter one was nice , looking forward for more !!!

    P.S I was away because of exams and you stopped pming me , can i get your pms again ? pretty please ?

    _Its my first longest comment ,I ever did on anyone's blog !

    Thank you for the amazing stories !

    Looking forward for your updates !
    _IF (ashley123)

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  45. OMG.... i have lost my words to praise ur writing.......

    such an wonderful writer u r ..... really..... bless u ...

    want to read more n more....

    plz.... update soon.....

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  46. thattttttttttt was hot.fabulous and many moreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.....keeeppppppppppp rockingggggg

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  47. that was really good and awesome. waiting for NYC.

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  48. That was hot...who could have imagined the desk scene to be that! ;)

    Mrignayani

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  49. That was hot and awesome. waiting for NYC.

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  50. awesum tina i always cum to ur blog 2 chk whether u hav updated or not.. Waiting 4 the NYC.. dat was hot .. who cud hav imagined thr desk scene to be dat!

    nivi

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  51. wow awesomee passion going on btwn them ..
    w8ng for new york :)

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  52. loved it...waiting for ur next update. .

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  53. Black eyes filled with spite, hmmm? From character profiling, they can only be 3 people. Dadi, Mami, and Shyaam. Urghhhh, hate two of them to hell, Mami is, well, you know. Confused :D

    Crap, I hated English in high school, and this is probably why. I hate writing essays on things. Teeheee :D Update soon, and I'll come up with an explanation for the other two questions, I promise. As soon as I finish swooning :p

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  54. i dont what to say u r awesome an amazing writer i cant believe u write all this i loved the update cant wait for more keep writing like this u really make my day honestly thanks so much!
    i think shayam was watching them evil thing
    i hope NYC brings arnav and khushi more close even if that is possible!


    IF ID:-IPKKNDbigfan

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  55. Lovely Update. The relationship is building up beautifully

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  56. oh my i am blushing. nothing else to say phewwww

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  57. Ch-7
    khushi is delving deeply with arnav... She don't want to apart from him....
    When i didn't need you... Gosh arnav touch khushi nerve..
    Contract part and khushi use sindoor for her condolence as she want too comfort and comfy herself that whatever she ias loosing is loosing to her husband..
    What so ever the reason behind sindoor there is life long together contract terms take them abide...
    Her first time..
    Mr. asr is so genius .,.. He already appoint gynac for her..
    Rain parking lot sequence jst damn awsome
    out of blue arnav complete one ritual that he carry his lady in his arms for the first time in the flat..
    He don't want khushi feel him that he is a monoster that's why he never put his hands on her soaked naked body... Khushi is too filled with passion when khushi is around..
    I want kill shayam n dadi..
    Ch-8
    khushi reach raizada mansion..
    Arnav want khushi never in any dark ways thats why he never want khushi comes in his sister hubby eyes.
    Passion is full on in arnav room..
    But who is the person? With dark eyes
    ch-9
    nice part
    m lughing with the khushi antics on clock ... Here arnav ,... Poor aman
    gosh khushi sees arnav private moments ... Poor chap
    the delivery boy is lucky enough that he don't get punch
    waiting for nxt one
    m cmntuing here as alredy miss much chapters
    precious-pie(if)

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  58. Ch-7
    khushi is delving deeply with arnav... She don't want to apart from him....
    When i didn't need you... Gosh arnav touch khushi nerve..
    Contract part and khushi use sindoor for her condolence as she want too comfort and comfy herself that whatever she ias loosing is loosing to her husband..
    What so ever the reason behind sindoor there is life long together contract terms take them abide...
    Her first time..
    Mr. asr is so genius .,.. He already appoint gynac for her..
    Rain parking lot sequence jst damn awsome
    out of blue arnav complete one ritual that he carry his lady in his arms for the first time in the flat..
    He don't want khushi feel him that he is a monoster that's why he never put his hands on her soaked naked body... Khushi is too filled with passion when khushi is around..
    I want kill shayam n dadi..
    Ch-8
    khushi reach raizada mansion..
    Arnav want khushi never in any dark ways thats why he never want khushi comes in his sister hubby eyes.
    Passion is full on in arnav room..
    But who is the person? With dark eyes
    ch-9
    nice part
    m lughing with the khushi antics on clock ... Here arnav ,... Poor aman
    gosh khushi sees arnav private moments ... Poor chap
    the delivery boy is lucky enough that he don't get punch
    waiting for nxt one
    m cmntuing here as alredy miss much chapters
    precious-pie(if)

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  59. no sweety none of us can see that scene and not think of this
    hold it who saw them
    was it dadi shyam
    or her cousin
    well who ever it was aint good news
    wait am am now too worried for them
    wow this keeps getting even more fun with each passing chapter
    and who would have thought it would get so passionate
    so much so that they forget where they are
    but what of the contract
    or is that of no consequence to them
    guess it doesnt matter in the end huh
    and now just need to read up on desert heat and the new thingy
    man took me longer than i supposed
    cant wait for the trip abroad right
    cheers for pm

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  60. I can't believe I come here and read it again!!!!....it's becoming an addiction to me......:p...
    what are you doing to us guyz....;)...;p...:D

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  61. Tooooooooooooo cooooooooooooooooooooooool!!!

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  62. blush blush blush !
    Oh I can never watch the under desk episode now without blushing ! :D
    Ah hehehe sorry ASR I shouldn't make such sounds after all It reminds you of khushi and you doing *ahem* -Censor-

    Can't wait anymore , update soon ! do pm me !
    (ashley123)

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  63. OH MY GOD IM BLUSHING ,like Yelhsa said I don't how I m going to watch under desk episode,waiting for next update

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  64. Beautiful Tina, cannot wait for further updates.

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  65. That makes three of us :P cant wait for them to go NYC :D *blush* the desk scene will never,ever,EVER be the same again !Loving the way they are getting attached to each other emotionally.it stopped being only a physical relationship a long back.I guess it was never a only physical relnshp for them.It was way beyond that right from their first time.only khushi took some time to accept him as her husband :) Cant wait for the next update ! EEEKKS and who is that black eyes observer ? LaksmiJi ?:P ROFL ! *blush* cant wait for Manhattan :D

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  66. Woow just found this today...and read it all in one go..and I am absolutely loving it..would love to read more it is a great story and I guess the black eyes are Either Dadi's or shyam's...though I really dont want it to be shyam's as I have had enough of it in the shoelw but still would love to find out soon..loving it..and please please please Pm me for updates in IF for this Ff and your other on going ones would love to read them ALL As I am almost obssessed with with Arshi good FFs..!! My IF Id-Skmr.bs take care..

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  67. i love this bold khushi! and your bold writing tina :)))

    they are connecting on so many different levels... its amazing to watch arnav singh raizada reveal himself as a human being!!!

    cant wait for the next part now :D

    -cherry227

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  68. ashw99 (IF)
    Amazing story loved it.

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  69. Khushi is so honest and bold, I love her
    Arnav man, poor thing can't wait for her period to be over

    Khushi can be so naughty, she tempted the lion
    Wow then the sex was absolutely amazing and hot for them

    Just wished that the outside world did not have to intrude anytime soon

    can't wait for your next update
    wished you could update all your stories
    but would really like an update for SP next

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  70. that was amazing thanks so much for a long update they got some a lone time i hope everything goes good for arnav at the fashion show did khushi just called him husband out loud? if yes wounder how arnav is going to react

    IF ID :-IPKKNDbigfan

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  71. ooohooooooo!!!!!.....
    it's so damn HOT!!!!!......
    arnav and khushi...they share more than husband-wife's feelings I guess......it's more than love.....what's they have....it's so rare......!!...
    can't wait for the next update.....

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  72. Stripping eh ? *blush* It was amazing ! looking forward for more and more of SP ! When will you update next ? *Sad* I really wanted Rain sequence in IPKKND but never mind when I'll be having it in SP ! I wanted to ask something . Satina seems excellent like you ! so Is she writing or have she wrote any Arshi Story ever ? I wanted to read (: Let me know .
    About pms ? I think I have mention it in every possible comment lol Girl do pm me when you update next ! Thanks (ashley123)

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  73. sp sp sp sp sp sp sp sp sp sp plzzzzz update secret passion i luv itttt!!!!

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  74. i hope it doesn't come to "them against the world"
    the strip rummy was hot very hot.
    overall awesome update exhibiting khushi's trust in arnav and wht they share.

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  75. really hot. Awesome writing.

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  76. Ahem ahem cant stop blushing... U r one hell of a good writer Tina amazing work along with Satina... Waiting for the rain sequence eagerly now....

    nivi

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  77. Strip rummy made me blush like crazy....!!! Love how they are spending time together like a couple... The way Arnav gets surprised and shocked every time Khushi does something for Arnav and shows her concern n care just goes to show the whole concept of someone caring for him has become alien for Arnav... Really happy that their relationship is progressing but they still have a long way to go...
    Amazing work :)

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  78. i couldnt stop blushing when they were playing
    this is kind of their honeymoon............their chemistry is great
    their understanding is super..............looking forward to read more

    GunM(IF)

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  79. Too good as usual :) its so amazing to see how their relationship has progressed...

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  80. Fab update...as always! The intensity is mind boggling! And now as the story progresses it is so much more! Love how their comfort level is growing as the days go by...

    Can't wait to read more!

    Cheers!
    Rayolight

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  81. Me blushing thru the office desk& strip poker.BTW what happened to miss.innocent from IPK.here she is bold, wearing lengerie& tempting him.thanks for the NY romance

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  82. Very well written...keep updating :)

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  83. Nice update Tina, just caught up on chap 10.

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  84. wonderful update
    rini_kat from IF

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  85. Wow.. I just read all parts...
    its just superb... Means superb...
    i just love this story...
    plz pm me whenever u update..
    thanks...
    if id hiralhk
    thanks

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  86. Hey dear its me melihoney and thank u so much for the link dear. im so proud that i got ur links, ur writings are such a treat to me.

    As far as i hve only finished this ff secret passion and i loved it dear. im gonna read every work of urs and will comment in that ffs too.

    love u dear

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  87. i've returnd tday after a long vacation,just
    read the latest updates of sp.they are just awesome and fabulous.

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  88. Loved the update....!!! They are perfect together... Its so good to see them relaxing and enjoying their trip... Especially Arnav... Hez been so carefree.... N although he is hesitant to name whatever he feels for Khushi, he now realizes that Khushi has become an integral part of his life....
    The whole Sindoor thing is not gonna go down well with Arnav initially... But what Im really hoping for is that he gives Khushi an opportunity to explain her point of view... n just doesnt go on yelling at her and ruining the bind they have finally managed to build...
    Fabulous update... Enjoy your trip and come back soon:)

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  89. their time together is like a fairytale for Khushi and Arnav
    but I definitely know Arnav is gonna bust a blood vessel because Khushi wore the sindoor
    can't wait to read about his reactions and her explanations

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    Replies
    1. I definitely think it is time to talk about marriage, they have been living
      like a married couple except for the legalities

      Delete
  90. Wonderful story....but chap. 12 last part has scared me...does things change from now on...

    K.

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  91. First of All thanks for the pm !!! :D
    and OMG ! I can't wait !
    Will they fight ? I'm so damn excited Tina ! Update soon please :) What will be the outcome ?! Arnav has been always unpredictable so All I can do is wait !
    :)
    (ashley123-IF) _

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  92. Nice twist at the end with the sindoor.

    Is this the right time for the M word ? I dont know you should tell us - maybe not - because after marriage it will be downhill between them :(

    BigIPKKNDFan

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  93. OK So I guess I feel a little different about the ending. But before get into that - just simply loved the update!! The end is just freakin' awesome!! My feeling is that the pot has been stirred a bit too soon. Arnav is not ready to consider this relationship (how much ever permanent in his mind)as marriage. I personally think Khushi did not choose the right words when calling him her husband and herself his wife. It was as if she is forcing the bond on him when he clearly has never shown an interest in it. She should have simply stated how she feels that way about it instead of stating it as an ultimatum. But hey - this for sure is what will keep the story interesting.
    If I have to guess, looking at the Diwali scene pics as the recap, they will not be together at the party, they will be coming close, but not in acknowledgement from either. In haste, he will end up using Lavanya as his partner at the party, hurting Khushi. Can't wait for the next update to see how all of this pans out...

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  94. Wow! Amazing update! Can't wait to read further!

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  95. I think Arnav might break the contract and flirt with Lavanya at the party. This might anger Khushi and she might agree to the wedding with Karan on the phone.

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  96. I read all the parts in one go
    And after each episode i got more interested in it
    Its a very special FF for me now
    A total different side of arhi
    Passionate and emotional
    Coming back to last episode
    I think it is right time for talking about marriage
    How much long are you gonna stretch it
    Its a perfect time
    Lets see how arnav reacts :)

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  97. I think it about time that arshi talk about love. Loved chapter 11. But please don't let Arnav Hurt khushi by making lavanya as his partner to the party or don't let him flirt with any other women besides khushi. That just wouldn't be right because arshi had built such a strong bond, so please don't let any jealousy come in between them. Eager to read next update.

    I hope you enjoy your vacation.

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  98. gosh this update was soo beautiful
    yaa i think its the perfect time for marriage

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  99. it was such a beautiful chapter. i felt good as well as sad when arnav thought that even he has got something worth being happy about and life is not all dark for him.

    the end, well i am a firm believer of no time like a present time especially when the situation itself presents the opportunity, so yes they should discuss it now, this marriage issue.

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  100. jst awsome.
    hope arnav won't shout at khushi....
    if-joarshi

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  101. The most sexiest update
    they almost made love in the rain
    and they are husband and wife in all sences except they are not married. I thing Arnav should not make a big deal out of it. They behave like a newly married in every way

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  102. I read this FF in all one go. Amazing and passionate. I loved your writing in terms of progress you make on the relations without hurry.

    Continue your good work and waiting for a very soon update on this FF.

    JUST LOVED IT.

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  103. Caught up after a long time. Amazing! How you write about so much sex and yet make it look beautiful is awesome! Their love for each other comes out in the forefront rather than their physical attraction, and that's the beauty of your writing!!!

    Waiting for more soon....and would love for them to get into marriage talks....we need to see his angry side more...lol

    Hugs
    Treasures from IF

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  104. Can u plz give me the link of Epi 2 to 6 of this Arhi FF 'Secret Passion'? [IF: Arshisarunfan]

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  105. He should know that as she is payal's sister he can not keep her secret....he has to come out in open.....I think now is the time is right

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  106. Read all the 11 Episodes in 2 days. Loved it to the core. Now waiting eagerly for Epi 12. [IF: Arshisarunfan]

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  107. read the whole thing

    really interesting story

    I can't wait for more

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  108. Damn that was an emotional roller coaster ride

    Khushi feels that with the sindoor he definitely is her husband but he doesn't believes in rituals, so Arnav does not think so.

    Khushi is right in her way because they are basically living as husband and wife except for the legalities

    Arnav on the other hand thinks that they are not and all his references to married life have ended in disaster

    Arnav releases her from the contract but emotionally they are still bonded

    Most likely when they return she will leave AR, because it will be difficult for her to see him everyday

    He can't see her without trying to touch her, what will he do when she is not around?

    And who the hell is this woman, is it Anjali?

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  109. Hello ladies. It was an awesome chapter. I dont hate ASR in this, unlike the show - lol. ASR has shown how he is hurt and afradi, and Khushi sees it as well. So it is a matter of time. Looking forward to seeing how the story plays out. I think that woman on the phone was Lavanya :)

    BigIPKKNDFan from IF

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  110. man what an emotional chapter i was crying ok arnav does have a really bad past but i think he is wrong he shouldn't push khushi away like that but it was an awesome update yaar thanks so much!

    IF ID:- IPKKNDbigfan

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  111. OHHHHHHH MYYYY...
    It was complete wonders...
    I neva expected arnav to break this realtion that easily,....he called her slave...
    It hurts me more than anything..he is so adament....
    He know he can't live without her still he dunt want to understand the fact..
    Gadha kahein ka..:P :P

    I want the update soon plesssshh..em so desperate to read..

    Arnav is not wrong he's followed by his Past ...but in this way or other he has to get over his past..='(
    n Khushi...:'(

    who is that bitchy lady...Hell :( :(

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  112. It was amazing...the turmoil faced by both described very well .... I think khushi is right in believing on her love...it's very important so that arnav will come out of past n suffering..WAITING FOR MORE....

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  113. Really liked how you have presented this part. Very realistic and emotional. I won't have liked it that much if Arnav would have just said yes for marriage right away as this would have not made any sense considering his past and why he is this dark. I undrstand Khushi's hope too as she is so in love and desperate to make it work, and have a feeling that arnav will go back to her...however long it may take...Great work!....Shilpi

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  114. Neither Arnav nor khushi.... Both have their own insecurities and to come out of it instantly and accept the present is hell difficult.... Their disagreement is even so beautifully written u can see it all happening in front of your eyes....

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  115. the chapter brought our his fear of marriage and her need for commitment beautifully....it was full of angst, volatile emotions and as always sizzling under the surface...passion..

    loved it..

    cheers!!
    what_the

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  116. wow!!! vry emotional update.
    i jst lvd it.
    ven i read i can cleary vizuvalize al d scenes.
    u r such a grt writer....
    i hve cried reading it yaar.
    acordng to arnav he hve d fear to accept marriage...
    but for a girl like khushi marriage s sacred one in which two soul r united foreven.
    Hope arnav solve dis soon becoz both r hurted like hell,they need each other.
    Waiting for nxt parttt...
    if-Joarshi

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  117. wow!!! vry emotional update.
    i jst lvd it.
    ven i read i can cleary vizuvalize al d scenes.
    u r such a grt writer....
    i hve cried reading it yaar.
    acordng to arnav he hve d fear to accept marriage...
    but for a girl like khushi marriage s sacred one in which two soul r united foreven.
    Hope arnav solve dis soon becoz both r hurted like hell,they need each other.
    Waiting for nxt parttt...
    if-Joarshi

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  118. wowowow this update was fab
    very emotional loved it to the core
    i could truly feel their pain
    hats off
    desperately waiting for next update

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  119. Speechless! Let me find words to describe, I will be back ......

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  120. amazing chapter. It was realistic that arnav was not prepared to give marriage an option. So excited to see what happens next!!

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  121. That was such an emotional overcoaster....can feel Arnav's pain...good one!

    Mrignayani

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  122. Its fabulously written Tina... I think Arnav needs time to believe in marriage & I m sure he wud not let Khushi's hopes shatter after all he loves her... It was damn emotional & realistic...

    nivi21 IF

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  123. Woo !

    Just got hold of your index via a friend ! And Im so glad I did..

    I absolutely am loving the ride till now.. Well, Khushi is right in her place, he needs to put his past behind and work on his present and future.. But as for Arnav, he's scared.. I wish he'd find a reason to overcome his fear and hold on to Khushi..

    Cause this separation is affecting them a lot..

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  124. It's amazing! I really felt sorry for khushi. Looking fwd to reading the next chapter.

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  125. this way its real.
    him agreeing so soon to marriage would have looked unrealistic.

    oh so it was the evil dadi that day and not the creepy shyam.

    both are right dnt knw whom to side with.

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  126. Ch stroms n cocktail
    wonderful n emotional chapter
    precious-pie(if)

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  127. it was an emotional ride.....plss update d next chapters soon...may be 2 to 3 at a time....waiting eagerly

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  128. Tina!

    I just completed reading the FF!

    Your writing is freaking awesome.. the picture you paint is so vivid. I can literally see the whole episode/ chapter playing out.

    Another thing worth mentioning is that every passionate scene that had transpired between ArHi is not cheap. It does not disgust me. It's totally mesmerizing. To think that you can find love in the most unexpected ways. They started out not caring for each other and now look at them.... it aches my heart to read the decision that Arnav has made. But I can understand... and I am glad that you are playing fair to your characters. Because it would have been a major shock if he would have agreed for the marriage right away. Arnav is damaged goods. Its going to take a while to fix his broken soul.

    Looking forward to the upcoming updates.

    Jammy- (IF)

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  129. heyyyy i was not writing any comments..bt dt does nt mean at all dt i was not reading ur updates...noo waaayyyyyyy....

    secret passion is nt all bou just passion anymore..it has taken a serious route now...
    n i m liking it...bt ya missing d passion full chaps also..

    i m looking forward to d nxt chap..lets see how u bring arnav to agree on marriage...as u said u love happy endings so i m sure its going to b a happy one ...lets wait n watch how u bring bou dt...

    love
    barun-myladdy (IF)

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  130. For me the burning passion these two share in this story is the backdrop, and the painting itself...so many times we show what we cannot say... Khusi has managed to see the scarred boy behind the ruthless, angry young man... The fact for me that Arnav loves her lies in the simple act of setting her free... He feels he is so flawed and cursed that tying Khusi to himself will soil the only pure thing that he has had fortune to meet... Have only read till chapter 12 and Tina !! The emotions, their pain conflict everything was almost palpable...one could feel it
    Anyway off to read the rest

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