Chapter One

 
 
Banner Credit: Harith25
 
 
Two weeks earlier
Shantivan,
Delhi.
 
 
 
 
“I just wish you wouldn’t be so selfish!”
The words stun me into silence, and I stare at my sister in disbelief.
Pain wars with the astonishment but I battle through it, forcing a single word past my lips.
What?!”
 
Payal looks contrite , but the damage has been done. 
She is only three years younger than me, but at times like these, I feel like she’s still just a child. 
A sullen, petulant child, who lashes out when she doesn’t get what she wants.
Some of it is probably my fault, of course. Throughout my life, I have done my best to shelter her from the harsh realities of our existence. Ever since our father left our mother when I was eight, I have known that Payal needed to be cared for…nurtured, and protected until she came into her own. Our mother knew it too, and together, we have managed to compensate for everything we lost at such a young age.
Later, when I was old enough, I  made sure that she was able to achieve her ambitions against all odds.
And in order to do all that, I have had to make sacrifices.
Not that I’ve minded, really.
To me, doing anything I can for the little sister I adored comes as naturally as breathing.
But today, here, at this moment…by calling me selfish, she has turned it all to dust.
She offers me an incoherent apology immediately, but I can barely hear what she’s saying past the dull throbbing pain in my chest.
She grasps my hand, and that brings me back to the present.
“Khushi, you know I didn’t mean it that way! I just meant that…it’s time for you to look for someone anyway…it’s not just for me, you know?”
I recall what we had been talking about when she sprung this on me.
We are here, on the balcony outside the living-room in Shantivan, where a dinner party is being held tonight.
It’s really not where I want to be, of course.
I have come to India on a three week vacation, and I had intended to spend it with my mother and Payal in Bangalore, where they now live. Payal has just joined a software firm after completing her bachelor’s degree in engineering, and I had been looking forward to catching up with her after my absence.
But only a few days into my stay, our Buaji requested us to meet her in Lucknow.
Madhumati Bua has stayed in touch with us throughout, even after my father’s desertion and death, years later. Memories of her kindness through those difficult years compelled us to accept her invite, and we traveled down to Lucknow. After a few days, she told us that her childhood friend Devyani Raizada had invited us all to a party being held in her home, Shantivan. Apparently Devyaniji’s grandson had returned from the States after many years, and this was a celebration of that fact. Buaji and Devyaniji have always been very close, but this was the first time that we would be meeting her.
Overcoming our initial reluctance, Buaji brought us with her to Delhi for this party. Payal and I had to deal with her excessive fuss over our dresses, and once she had pronounced that we looked ‘not bad’, we had finally taken a taxi to Shantivan.
Devyaniji was pleasant enough, and she spent quite some time with Buaji and my mother, lost in her reminiscences of Lucknow. But when she turned away to welcome the other guests and we finally had some time to look around, it became obvious that this was no ordinary party. 
Every family that had been invited had a daughter of marriageable age, and it became clear to us that Devyaniji was playing matchmaker with  a vengeance.
And then finally, I saw him.
 
Arnav Singh Raizada.
 
Suave, assured…and handsome like no other.
Before this night, I only knew him by reputation. The tabloids back home usually contain some snippet of his lavish lifestyle, and my mind goes back through all I know of him.
At age thirty, he is one of the few self-made Asian millionaires who have managed to catch the fancy of the press in the States. Raizada Corp  is tremendously successful, and one of the few organizations that have made it through the recession relatively unscathed.
All this went through my mind as I saw him come down the stairs and greet his grandmother, but then I lost track of him when he was virtually swallowed by the vultures…I mean, mothers of all the girls at the party.
And it was then that Buaji turned to us and informed us with a huge smile that this was why she had brought us here. Devyaniji was looking for a Raizada bride, and why shouldn’t it be one of us?
I had barely managed to suppress my laughter at the thought that she was thinking about me. I was far, far away from the type of woman who would catch a millionaire’s fancy, and I knew that well.
Now Payal, on the other hand, was every man’s dream. Beautiful, shy, well-mannered and compliant…well, as long as she was getting her way, of course.
But I also knew that bringing Payal here was  a futile effort as well.
Because what Buaji  did not know was that Payal was head over heels in love with her colleague, Akash. She had told me this over the phone months ago, and had begged me not to tell Amma until she was ready. Apparently Akash returned her sentiments, but he was still holding back from openly dating her or formalizing their relationship in any way. He had finally confided in Payal that he was afraid of his mother’s reaction, since she had a different kind of bride in mind, someone who wasn’t my simple, middle-class sister.
Payal had confided in Amma just days ago, and had asked her if she could talk to Akash’s Mother.But Amma had berated her, and then firmly informed Payal that no matter what, the eldest daughter would be married first.
Which was me, of course.
And so tonight, Payal had cornered me here on the terrace of Shantivan, asking me why I wasn’t making more of an effort to talk to Arnav Singh Raizada. Apparently her desperation had blinded her to reality, and she had somehow convinced herself that I stood a chance, because Buaji and Devyaniji  were so close and our aunt would put in a good word for me.
And when I had heard this, I hadn’t been able to help myself.
I had laughed.
Laughed at the sheer impossibility of what she was suggesting.
And then I had calmly informed her that I had no intention of making a fool of myself with him or any other man, for that matter.
And it was then that she had broken my heart in two by calling me selfish.
 
I look at her now, and realize that she is still waiting for an answer.
But at this moment, pain has morphed into an irrational anger and I cannot stop myself from lashing out, my voice rising with every word.
“So now it’s  ‘time for me to find someone’? And I suppose this has nothing to do with you and Akash, or Amma’s decision of getting me married first?”
“Khushi…try and understand this! I want this for you, I want you to be happy, how can you doubt that? But…but time’s running out for me, Khushi. Akash’s Mom is looking at proposals now, and I’m afraid that when push comes to shove, Akash won’t be strong enough to oppose her…I can’t bear to  think about that!”
“Then maybe you shouldn’t be with someone who is so weak, Payal.”
She takes  a deep breath, then looks away for a moment.
“You won’t understand, Khushi. It’s only him for me, no matter what his faults are. That’s what…that’s what love is.”
She turns to me again, entreaty in her eyes.
“And that’s what I want for you, Khushi. Love, marriage, happiness…why shouldn’t I want that for you?”
I laugh, but this time the sound is mocking.
“And you think I’ll have a chance of finding all that here? With Arnav Singh Raizada, of all people? Good God, Payal, are you crazy? Even if  there’s an unlikely miracle and he notices me, do you truly believe that I would give him the chance to take things further? He’s a playboy whose lifestyle is almost scandalous, and I’m sure this whole wife-hunt is just a ruse to fool his grandmother. Men like him don’t want to settle down, they’re just arrogant snobs whose entire world revolves around only themselves and their needs! Do you think a man like him could even be faithful? Or is it that you don’t even care? You’re just too wrapped up in this whole Akash thing, and all you want is for me to clear the way for you. Even if it is by marrying a womanizing jerk!”
Payal says nothing, but her eyes fill with tears and she turns towards the sliding doors.
Before I can stop her, she runs back into the living-room and I lose sight of her.
I don’t even know if I want to follow her at the moment. 
My words were angry…but they were honest, and I cannot bring myself to regret them at this point.
Payal has been taking me for granted for way too long…but this is the limit.
How can she expect me to…and with a man like that?
 A small part of me reminds me that I may be guilty of ignoring this issue for a while now. She confided in me about Akash months ago, but have I ever given any thought to my own marriage seriously, even after  my mother made her decision clear?
My inner ramblings stumble to a halt as I am suddenly aware of a presence beside me.
The balcony wraps around the entire front facade of the house, and I know that someone has just stepped out from beyond the shadow of the potted plants beside the sliding doors that lead to the dining-room.
I take a deep breath, and steel myself to calmly face this person, whoever he or she is.
But when I finally turn, the air freezes in my lungs.
Dressed in a grey suit and leaning against the wall with a speculative look on his face is none other than the man himself.
Arnav Singh Raizada.
I clench my hands into fists and take another deep breath, but I don’t know what to say.
He stares at me for another moment, then slowly straightens and walks out into the light.
For some reason he reminds me of a predator.
A sleek, lethal predator.
Except, I have no intention of being his prey.
I raise my head and watch him steadily as he approaches, but all my new-found composure deserts me as he suddenly stops, then bows.
My mouth drops open in surprise, and I barely manage to close it as he straightens.
“Arrogant womanizing jerk at your service, Miss Gupta.”
Oh Good God.
Shock paralyzes me for a moment as I realize that he has heard my little speech.
He is still staring at me with an amused, sardonic glint in his eye, and I stifle my impulse to apologize.
But before I can actually think of anything to say, he speaks again.
“I will freely admit to the first two, of course. And then again, plenty of women have called me a jerk…right after I’ve broken up with them.”
I take  a deep breath, glad that I did not apologize to the…the jerk.
 
At least you’re  honest, Mr.Raizada.”
One corner of his lips turn up in a half-smile, but I steel myself against the impact.
The man is attractive, there’s no doubt about that.
The aura of wealth and power adds to his sheer animal magnetism to create a pull that affects even me, for a moment.
But then I remember who he is and what he has just admitted to, and I have no problem in curbing my instant reaction.
“Honesty is something I strive for in every sphere, Ms.Gupta. Which is why I’m glad that I decided to step out onto the balcony for some fresh air at exactly the moment when you decided to butcher my character.”
“You’re glad that you heard that?”
“Of course. After all the adulation and worship going on inside, your opinions made for a refreshing change.”
“Really? I find that hard to believe, Mr.Raizada. What man doesn’t like to be praised and flirted with?”
“It gets boring, after a while. Even if the praise is well deserved.”
He says this with a straight face, but I can see the glint in his eye .
“Humility is clearly not one of your virtues, Mr.Raizada.”
“Humility? It is vastly overrated. If I am not confident in myself and my abilities, how can I ever convince someone else to believe in me?”
I suddenly realize that he is a master at this game, and I cannot expect to win anything in verbal war.
“Interesting observation. And I’d love to stay and listen to more of those, but my mother will be worried if I don’t go in soon.”
I turn towards the door without waiting for  a response.
But I have barely taken a step towards the door when I suddenly feel his fingers grasp my wrist.
I look back at him, but he is still looking out at the night sky.
“Let me go!”
He finally turns to face me, and his look is speculative once again.
“Join me in my study for a drink.”
“What? No!”
 
 
No, you’re right. That might be too scandalous for my grandmother. How about coffee tomorrow?”
“No, thank you. I’m returning to Lucknow tomorrow.”
“That’s probably the first time that anyone’s ever refused to go on a date with me.”
I stare back at him, attempting to appear unfazed by the use of the word ‘ date’.
 
 
What a blow to your massive ego, Mr. Raizada. “
An unholy amusement gleams in his eyes, and I brace myself instinctively for what he’s going to say next.
“My ego isn’t the only thing that’s massive, Ms. Gupta.”
I use all my willpower to keep the blush from my face, and keep my eyes trained on him.
I’ll be damned if I let him affect me with practiced lines like those, and so I choose to deliberately misunderstand him.
“No, I’m sure  that your bank balance is equally massive as well. Too bad I’m not interested in either.”
I turn around, intending to leave when I’ve had the last word.
But his low tones halt me in my tracks.
“Why are you here, then?”
I face him again, and take in a deep breath.
“Because my aunt wanted us to accompany her.”
“I’m sure that she also told you why?”
 
 
Not really. But things became quite clear when we got here.”
“I find it very hard to believe that you chose to attend this exclusive gathering without knowing exactly why you are here.”
“You can believe whatever you wish, Mr. Raizada. That isn’t my problem. Now if there’s nothing else, may I leave?”
“Of course. Until we meet again, Ms. Gupta.”
“We won’t. Not if I can help it.”
His low, husky laugh follows me as I step back into the house, and I barely manage to catch his parting words.
“Don’t bet on it, Ms. Gupta.”
It’s only when I enter the living-room that  it strikes me.
How did he know my surname?
 
 
____________
The conversation stays with me while we travel back to Lucknow the next day.
Payal is still not speaking to me, and I remember my fruitless attempts to talk to her last night. But after I saw the tears that sprang into her eyes whenever I brought up the matter of the previous evening, I stopped trying.
I look over at Buaji, but she is occupied with a low-voiced phone conversation that seems interminable. And for some reason, Amma seems to be listening too.
I sigh, and walk over to the other side of the train and sit  by the window as I attempt to make sense of the mess my life has suddenly become.
I question myself again about why that strange meeting with Arnav Singh Raizada seems to prey on my mind to this extent.
Why did I react so strongly last night?
 
It’s not as if I really hate the man, after all. To feel such an emotion, one would have to know him well, and I cannot claim that at all. My knowledge comes solely from the tabloids and the little that Buaji has told us about his family.
So what is it that I really feel?
He made me uncomfortable, there’s no doubt about that fact. I was caught on the wrong foot after he let me know that he had heard my opinion of him, and I reacted hastily and inappropriately, I guess.
And if I’m totally honest, I think there was an element of envy in my reaction too.
I am jealous of the fact that he has money to burn. All my life, I have seen the struggle to make ends meet, and for one weak moment, I think about his lifestyle and covet it.
What would it be like to live that life?
 
I shake my head, trying to veer my thoughts away from the direction they’ve taken.
My life is what it is, and I have to make the best of it. My mother has shouldered the burden for years, and now that I am finally capable of helping her, I need to focus on that.
Everything else is just wishful thinking, that’s all.
As I turn back to the passing scenery, a distant corner of my mind tries to remind me of that other, fleeting emotion that surfaced last night.
I close my eyes and push that thought away immediately, unwilling to admit to the fact that I found the abominable man attractive in any way.
I didn’t.
And that’s all there is to it.
Now if only I could convince myself that it’s true…
_______
After another restless night, I wake up in my room at Buaji’s house in Lucknow.
Amma is standing by the bed, holding out my best red anarkali and asking me to change into it so that we can all go to the nearby temple for an early morning pooja.
I grumble, but get dressed soon enough. After rushing through breakfast, I am looking for my purse when Buaji comes in and suddenly announces that I will have to stay back after all, since my friend Preeto is coming home for a visit.
I grin at the thought of seeing Preeto again after all these years, and cheerfully wave goodbye as my family leaves for the temple.
I pass a mirror on the way to my room and realize that my braid is coming undone, and I quickly unravel it and look for my comb. But before I can find it, the doorbell rings and I rush to the door, eager to meet my friend again.
I throw it open , and my jaw drops to the floor.
You!”
 
 
It’s him, arrogant smirk in place.
I can’t believe it!
And now he smiles, and stares at me for a moment.
His eyes wander over my unbound hair, and I quickly twist the length into a knot while he leans against the door.
“May I come in?”
“Why…how…”
“I can answer all your questions, but can I come in before I do that? Your neighbors seem to be very interested in me at the moment.”
I look over his shoulder and sure enough, Vimla Maasi is grinning at  me from her front doorstep.
I sigh, then move aside so he can enter.
He walks in, and his gaze moves over the small, cluttered room.
I brace myself for an acerbic comment but he surprises me.
“This reminds me of my years in Lucknow.”
For the life of me, I cannot envision him in a middle-class dwelling like this one. Dressed in a blue blazer with a  white shirt and obviously designer blue jeans, he looks out of place here.
But then I remember his humble beginnings and the fact that he created all his wealth from scratch, and it all makes sense.
Before I can say anything, he turns to me again and I notice that he has a file in one hand.
“May I sit down?”
Since he is being carefully polite, I decide that I can do no less. And I also remember that Buaji knows his grandmother, and I have to offer him the hospitality of my home even if it kills me to do so.
I gesture towards the sofa, and he sits down there, staring at me all the while.
“Can I get you some tea?”
He smiles.
“Maybe later. For now, there’s something I need to discuss with you.”
It suddenly strikes me that his behavior is radically different from the last time we met. Now it’s almost…respectful. 
 
But what on earth does he want to talk to me about?
“My…my aunt isn’t here. Neither is my Mom. If it’s a message from your grandmother, then you’ll have to wait for them to come back from the…”
“…temple, I know. But this isn’t about my grandmother. Well, not directly.”
“How do you know that they’ve gone to the temple?”
“Because I asked them to.”
For the second time today, my mouth drops open in shock.
“You…what?!”
 
 
Look, you’d better sit down. This could take a while.”
I sit down in the chair across from him, not because he asks me to, but because I’m too bewildered to do otherwise.
He leans forward with a serious expression, and I wonder again if this is the same man I met in Delhi.
“This is probably going to sound strange…and sudden. All I ask is that you hear me out before you say anything. Do you think you could do that?”
I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about, but my mind is fixed on one thing at the moment.
“Before getting to that, I want to know about this temple visit. You can’t expect me to believe that you just asked them to leave, and they did!”
“Well…not quite. Actually, I requested it of my grandmother, and she asked for your aunt’s permission to allow us to meet alone .”
I’m still trying to reconcile this polite, well-mannered man with the flirtatious, arrogant stranger of that night, and the next words burst from my mouth without forethought.
“Wait, why are you being so…polite? So different from the…”
“…arrogant, womanizing jerk?”
I know I’m blushing, and I lean back in my chair as he continues.
“It’s very simple, Ms.Gupta. The other night, I was reacting to a remark made by a stranger. But now it’s different, you deserve the respect due to my future…well, we’ll come to that in a moment. Now as I was saying, I asked my grandmother to find out all about you, and she called your aunt while you were on the train to Lucknow.”
Of course! That interminable phone call that my mother was listening to as well…
My thoughts are a jumbled whirl as I listen to him now.
“And once I had found out all I needed to, I asked Nani to give me the opportunity to meet you here.”
“All you…needed to?”
He leans back, apparently relaxed.
“Yes. So I know now that Ms.Khushi Kumari Gupta is twenty-five, and her immediate family consists of her mother and sister. I know that you live in California, where you have just completed your graduation in Biotechnology with honors. I also know that you are now here on vacation, and on your return, you are planning to join a couple of your classmates who have started their own small biotech research firm. And most importantly, I know that you have never been engaged, or married.”
I listen to all this with an impassive face, my composure returning with every word I hear. It is as if the reminder of my achievements has given me the strength to overcome my surprise, and I answer him calmly.
“Buaji has been very informative, I see.”
“Of course. But that isn’t all I know. I was fortunate enough to chance upon a conversation the other night, if you recall. So in addition to all that, I also know that your sister has hopes of marrying her colleague, and only your marriage stands in her way.”
I take a deep breath as I finally ask the question that has been at the forefront of my mind for the past few minutes.
“Impressive. But what exactly are you planning to do with all this information, Mr.Raizada?”
He straightens, and now his eyes sear into mine with an intensity that leaves me almost  breathless.
And then his words steal away the rest of my breath.
“I’m planning to make you an offer you can’t refuse, Ms.Gupta.”
“An…offer? I don’t understand.”
He looks down at the file, then opens it and gestures to it.
“Yes. I’m offering you a contract. The terms are reasonable, and I think you will see that they would suit you very well, once you get past the initial shock. All I ask is that you go into this with an open mind.”
“Contract? I still don’t get it. Does this have something to do with our biotech start-up?”
This brings a faint smile to his face.
“Not directly.”
“What?”
“Here, why don’t you see for yourself?
He passes me the file, and I take it hesitantly.
I cannot shake the feeling that somehow, the words on these papers have the power to change things forever.
I don’t know where that thought has come from, but it makes my hands tremble slightly as I take in the first few words.
And then I stop.
And stare.
I read it five times, but it still doesn’t make sense.
I look up at him, and find that he is watching me with an intense expression on his face.
“I…this…it says here that this is a contract of…”
“…marriage. Yes, it is. I want you to be my wife.”

I fight to keep the  renewed shock from showing on my face. He looks at me with a wary look on his face, as if he is waiting for me to explode.
And I decide right then that I will not give him that satisfaction.
I will not show him my surprise, nor will I throw the file back in his face like I want to.
Instead, I look down at the file again.
The words dance before my eyes, and I use the time to regain my equilibrium.
When I finally look up at him, the wariness has been replaced by puzzlement.

 

 

“Interesting. I had no idea that you were into elaborate practical jokes. Have you planned this with my family? Are they waiting to come back in and laugh at me?”

 

 

He sighs, then leans back again.

 

 

“If you knew me better, Ms.Gupta, you would know that I never joke when it comes to two things…my family, and my business.”

 

 

Shock slams through me again, and I realize that he’s actually serious about this.
And then , as his last words sink in, I ask him the obvious question.
“And does this contract have anything to do with either?”
“It has everything to do with my family, Ms.Gupta. Tell me, what do you know of them?”
“I…I know that you have a grandmother who lives in Delhi. And Buaji mentioned a sister…”
“Yes. Anjali Di, who lives in California too. Do you know anything about my early life in Lucknow?”

 

 

“I…only that you started your business from scratch…”

 

 

“I did. But before that…well, our life wasn’t exactly a bed of roses.”

 

 

He stands up now, and walks over to the window before continuing.
“My sister and I were orphaned at a very young age. My grandmother took us in, but she barely had any money of her own. We struggled through those early years until I finally found a job, and then I did everything I could to get to the States. And the rest, as they say, is history.”
The arrogance has made a comeback, and I almost smile at that.
But the file in my hands in burning my palms, and I cannot bear to look down at it as he speaks again.
“I worked my ass off until I had what I wanted. I made my millions, and tried to give my family what they should have had all along. Luxuries…the lifestyle…everything. But by then, it was too late. Di had already met and married Shyam Jha, and he…well he is a firm believer in the fact that his wife is solely his responsibility. He won’t let Di accept anything from me. And Nani…the only thing she’s ever taken from me is her husband’s home in Delhi. I bought back  Shantivan for her a few years ago, and she is content with that and won’t even look at anything else that I might want to give her.”
He turns to me again, and I feel my eyes widen as I register the passionate intensity in his eyes.
“So there you have it, Ms.Gupta. My company is among the top twenty in Silicon valley. I have made my fortune many times over…but my family will have none of it. I want to shower them with everything that money can buy, everything that they had been denied for years…but they will not accept a thing. “
He walks over to me, and stops when he is an arm’s length away.
“And now, after all these years, my grandmother and sister have finally requested something of me. I have waited for them to ask me for something all my life, and I will do anything to give them what they want. “
I am so caught up in the intensity of his story that I have almost forgotten the reason he’s here.
Suddenly, it all makes sense.
“They…want you to get married?”
He smiles.
“Exactly. Like I’ve told you already, they’ve never asked me for anything. Neither have they questioned me about my lifestyle or my choices…until now. I would give them the world, but the world isn’t what they want. They want a Raizada bride.”
I shake my head, confused.
“Just like that? They have asked you to get married, and you will? No questions asked?”
He smiles again and this time, there’s real amusement in his eyes.
“Yes, I will. You sound disappointed , Ms.Gupta. Were you expecting some dramatic reason, perhaps? Did you think that my grandmother was dying, and this was her last wish? Or maybe something like…she held the controlling interest in my business and would only give me her shares if I got married?”
The suppressed laughter in his voice makes me want to smile, as well.
But I don’t, because I had imagined something like that…something that would force a dedicated playboy like him to give up his carefree lifestyle for the bonds of marriage.
“I…didn’t know what to think.”
“This isn’t a bad romance novel, Ms.Gupta. My family doesn’t need to force me or blackmail me into anything. They have only to ask, and it is theirs.”
I look down at the file again, envious of his obvious devotion to his family.
As my fingers trace the lines of print, I take a deep breath and speak again without looking up at him.
“So…that was what the party was about?”
“Yes. My grandmother wanted me to meet some families who were from Lucknow, in the hopes that I might choose one of those women as my bride. But there’s one other thing, Ms. Gupta…”
I look up at that, and find that he is closer now.
“…I have told my grandmother in no uncertain terms that when I do decide , the choice will be entirely mine. I will brook no interference in that matter.”
I smile in disbelief, and shake my head.
“And you expect me to believe that you have chosen…me?”
 
“Why is that so hard for you to believe?”
I stand up now, and place the file back on the table as I walk away.
“Isn’t it obvious?”
“Not to me, it isn’t.”

 

 

I turn to face him again, and cross my arms over my chest.
“Come on, Mr. Raizada. You could have any woman you want. Any one of those beautiful girls at the party would love to be your bride. So would any number of models or socialites or even…”
“You’re right, of course. There is really no shortage of women who would be willing to marry me, even though they know nothing about me except the state of my bank balance. And that night, I was forced to spend hours with them. I realized then that no matter what, I couldn’t tie myself down to a simpering, glamorous doll whose life would revolve around the next best thing in fashion. Neither could I see myself living with one of those decent, homely girls whose existence would be confined to the kitchen. I felt stifled, and I sought to escape the suffocating presence of all these women who just spoke empty words that they thought I wanted to hear. And then I walked out onto the balcony, and what do you think I heard there?”

 

 

I know very well what he’d heard there, and I cannot stop the blush that stains my cheeks as he continues.
“I heard a honest, uninhibited opinion about me. And sight unseen, the voice that spoke those words captured my attention. And when your sister finally left the balcony, I approached the woman who had dared to speak her mind while she was standing in my house, as my guest. It was then that I first began to see the possibilities.”
“Possibilities? What are you talking about?”
“Our brief exchange convinced me that I was dealing with a quick wit and a sharp mind, which was a refreshing change from what I had been forced to endure inside. And then, when I asked my grandmother to find out more about you, I knew that I had found what I was looking for.”
“I still don’t get it.”
I surprise myself by my calmness in the midst of this admittedly bizarre exchange, but right now, it seems terribly important to find out just why he thinks I’m perfect marriage material.
“Let me explain, Ms. Gupta. You are from Lucknow, a daughter of a family known to my grandmother, which means that she will be satisfied with this match. Point number two, you are young, pretty, educated, intelligent, and shrewd…something that ensures that I won’t ever find myself bored in your presence. You already live in California, so that takes care of the moving part. And then I also got the distinct impression that you are practical and grounded, something that is essential for what I had in mind.”

 

 

I look down at the file.
“Which is what, exactly?”
“A practical marriage of convenience, Ms. Gupta. Let me see if I can explain this to you. My family wants to see me married, and so I will do exactly that. Even though I don’t want to. I never wanted to get married, and now that I have to, I will do so on my terms.”
I find myself wishing that I had read that file completely, but that opportunity is lost now.
But whatever is written there, I know what my answer is going to be. 
Before I tell him that, however, I want to know all the details of his plan.

 

 

“So what are your terms, Mr.Raizada?”
“I want us to get married in  a legal ceremony, but only after we have signed this contract. The contract lays down all my conditions and requirements, but we can discuss those and change any if you have any objection. Except for these: I am offering a marriage in name only, for the duration of a year. During that period of time you will live in my home and maintain the facade of being my wife. Other than that, you are free to do as you wish with your life. At the end of this year, we will sit down and discuss our arrangement, and continue it if it suits us. If not, then we terminate it and walk away.”
The cold blooded deal he is proposing cannot be called a marriage at all. Still, I don’t argue with him about anything.
I want to hear him out first.
“I don’t quite understand, Mr. Raizada. You are doing this for your family, aren’t you? They want you to get married…but what you are proposing is a business arrangement, really. Don’t you have any qualms about cheating your family in this manner? And what happens after one year? Won’t they be devastated when news of your divorce reaches them?”
“What my family doesn’t know won’t hurt them, Ms. Gupta. I intend to keep this contract a secret, and you would need to do the same. And I have every hope that at the end of one year, we will find that this arrangement suits us both.”
“But…why do you want to do it this way at all? Why not find someone who really, truly likes you for what you are, and get married for real?”
He stares at  me for a long moment, then throws his head back and laughs.
“Someone who likes me? Women like what I can give them, Ms. Gupta. It really doesn’t go beyond that. Do you like me?”

 

 

The sudden question catches me unawares, and I blurt out the answer without thinking.
“No.”
I bite my lip immediately, but it is already too late.
And it is the truth, after all.
Since I’ve met him, he has inspired a  wide range of emotions in me. Anger, confusion, shock, envy…I’ve felt all those, and more.
Mere ‘like’  has never entered the equation.
“See, that’s my point. ‘Liking’ or even ‘loving’ someone is immaterial. Those emotions are for the weak, and they are frankly unrealistic. I have certainly felt none of those for a woman, and I don’t even believe in tying myself to one person for the rest of my life. Marriage is one of the most foolish institutions ever invented, and the only way I can circumvent this is to make some rules of my own. I have given a lot of thought to this contract, Ms. Gupta. If you read it, you will know what I mean.”

 

 

I have no intention of ever reading it, but he doesn’t need to know that for now.
I have some other questions that need to be answered, and I ask him the first of those.

 

 

“From everything that you’ve told me so far, I certainly see how this would suit you, Mr. Raizada. You fulfill your family’s wishes while still retaining control of a marriage you don’t really want. What I fail to see is, what is in this for me? Why should I tie myself to a person who doesn’t even want to be married? Why should I lie to my own family? And later, after the one year term ends, what should I look forward to? A divorcee doesn’t have too many options when it comes to choosing a life partner, even in this day and age. I’m sorry to say this, Mr. Raizada, but I don’t see why any sane woman would ever accept what you’re offering her.”
For some reason, this makes him smile.
Any other woman would have blindly signed that contract with no questions asked, Ms. Gupta. But the fact that you are still there, while my file lies here forlorn and deserted…this tells me that I have made the perfect choice, after all. “

 

 

“That doesn’t answer my question.”
He walks up to me, and I stifle the urge to take a step back.
“I’ll tell you why you should do this, Ms. Gupta. If you read that contract, you will see that as my wife, you will be entitled to sharing my lifestyle for twelve months. In addition to that, you will receive a very generous settlement as soon as the marriage is formalized. The amount is enough to ensure that your sister’s marriage takes place soon, and with all the grandeur that her prospective mother-in-law seems to require. “

 

 

So now he has come to the heart of the matter.
Payal’s marriage to Akash is my biggest responsibility , and I have already started to make preparations for that. I hasten to inform him of that fact.

 

 

“I can do that myself, Mr. Raizada. My job at the new start up is that of Principal investigator, and in a few months I will have enough saved to…”

 

 

“Not as much as I’m willing to give you, Ms. Gupta. Plus, there’s the fact that money is the least of your problems. As I understand it, your mother wants you to be married first. She won’t even consider Payal before that, will she?”
For the first time ever, doubt begins to creep in.
But then I fight back.
“I’m sure I can convince Amma to overlook that.”
“And will you be able to do all that and save up enough before the groom’s mother finds him another bride?”

 

 

“I’ll try to…”
“You can only try, Ms. Gupta. But if you sign this, the result is practically guaranteed. I can assure you that Payal’s future mother-in-law will jump at the chance to ally herself to a woman whose sister is married to Arnav Singh Raizada.”

 

 

“That may be true, but…”
“And what about your PhD, Ms.Gupta?”

 

 

I still in shock.
How does he know about that?
 
I haven’t told anyone , not even Payal!
“I know all about that, Ms.Gupta. With all due respect, did you really expect a man in my position to take a step like this without having a background check done? I received the report this morning, and that was when I decided to proceed with this. I know that you were offered a position in the Molecular Biology faculty at Stanford, with the option of working on your PhD at the same time. I also know that you had to give up this cherished dream and take up the new job instead, just so that you could fund your sister’s wedding and support your mother, who is retiring this year. Just think about it, Ms. Gupta. You won’t have to give up anything. You can have all your dreams at once.”
Shock has given way to temptation now, and I am angry with myself for my weakness.
“My mother would never take the support of her son-in-law.”
“I assumed as much. Which is why you will tell her that it is your money, something that was lent to you in advance by your boss. And to answer your other question about lying to your family, isn’t it better to tell them a small white lie and have them be happy? In one fell swoop, you could ensure their future happiness.”
He comes even closer, and I find myself strangely breathless as he says my name for the first time.
“And you, Khushi. You have struggled for years. You worked at two jobs while doing your master’s…and you are planning to give up your life’s ambition so that you can  give your family what they want. But here I am, offering you a way to have both. It’s an easy choice, really.”
“Nothing will be easy, Mr. Raizada. Especially after the divorce.”
“We don’t know if there will be one. What if we decide to continue the arrangement?”
“And what if we don’t?”
“There is a pre-nuptial agreement in there, too, In the event of a divorce, you will be entitled to a more than generous alimony.”

 

 

“And that makes everything alright?”
“I know it sounds cliched, but money solves all problems, Ms. Gupta.”
This is just not fair.
When he first came here with his proposal, I was prepared to send him back with a resounding no.
But now…I’m just not sure anymore.
I am tempted beyond all measure…tempted to throw caution to the winds and accept this with crazy offer.
To be able to give Payal what she wants and have my own goals within reach…it sounds like my ultimate fantasy. 
And to convert that into reality, all I have to do is play out a role for twelve months of my life.
Just twelve months, and I could have it all.
I stare up at him, and I think he senses my weakness.
“Khushi, I know you can do this. I want you, and no one else…because I know that you are capable of pulling this off without getting entangled in messy feelings and emotions. I haven’t gotten this far in life without learning to be a good judge of character, and I have an instinctive feeling about this. Trust me, you won’t regret this.”

 

 

Trust him? I barely know him!
 
And yet, a part of me wants to take his offer and run with it before he changes his mind.
But the other, more rational part urges me to step back, and I listen to it.

 

 

“I…this is overwhelming. I need some time.”
He stares at me for a long moment.
“Of course. I’m sure you need to think about all I’ve said so far. I’ll leave the contract with you, and here is my number. This is my cell phone, you can call me at any time.”

 

 

I take the card from him, and stare at it for a moment.
“I…I’ll see you later, then.”
“I’ll wait for that call, Khushi.”

 

 

And then he’s gone, leaving me alone with my muddled thoughts.
__________

 

 

I refuse to answer my family’s questions, and stay mostly in my room all day.
I go over and over the conversation in my head, and I read through that file twice.
I repeat the pros and cons over and over to myself.
He’s arrogant, a self-confessed playboy, and I barely know him. His reasons for wanting this…for wanting me, are very disturbing, to say the least.
And yet…he can give me everything I’ve ever wanted, and some things that I have never dreamed of.
As I think about all of this, I wait for the shame…the embarrassment of feeling like a gold-digger.
But it never comes.
My practical side takes over, and reminds me that he has much to gain from this arrangement as well.
But there is a tiny part of me that is unconvinced.
It is  a part of my self that I never knew existed…one that I barely acknowledge even now.
It is the part of me that wants a real marriage, with a man who wants me for myself.
I am surprised as this errant thought takes root. I have never thought about my own wedding before Payal brought it up, I’ve never really had the time or inclination. Maybe I should have given it some thought…but it’s too late for that now.
But at this moment, when I am presented with this practical deal…I can’t help but wish for more.
 
It is night now, and I lie in bed, undecided and unsure.
A knock is followed by the sound of the opening door, and I suppress a sigh. I know that an explanation to my mother is inevitable, and I brace myself for it.
Amma comes in, and sits down beside me. Gently, she strokes my hair away from my forehead.
“Khushi, are you ready to talk to me now?”
I nod, then turn to face her.
“This has all been very sudden, Amma…”
“I know, bitiya. And I also know that I don’t have to list the advantages of this match to you, Khushi. The family is well-respected, and it seems like Arnav  genuinely likes you. His grandmother made that quite clear.”
Likes me?
 
I stifle a laugh. I am convenient, that’s all.
“And Khushi…I don’t have to remind you what this will mean for Payal. I…I spoke to Akash’s mother today.”
I sit up at that, and stare at Amma, waiting for her to continue.
“She was polite enough, but she made it quite clear that she wants Akash to settle down soon. I…I think this match couldn’t have come at a better time, Khushi. If we are able to arrange this quickly, then I can go down to Bangalore for Payal’s rishta.”
So…you are asking me to accept this?”
“No, bitiya. I am just trying to tell you that if this happens, then it will be the perfect solution. For both my daughters. I want you both to settle down, Khushi, you know that. But it has to be you first, as tradition dictates. And now that we have been given this opportunity…”
I can see it all so clearly now.
The choice is clear, perhaps it always has been…I just haven’t seen it until now.
I…I just need to give this some thought, Amma…”
I can understand how you feel, Khushi. And I’m sorry that I cannot help you…but this decision has to be yours, in every sense. Think about this, take your time. And whether you decide to say yes…or no, I will support you, bitiya. As for the rest, we will figure it out together, like we always have.
 
I have no words after this unflinching show of faith . I throw myself into my mother’s arms, knowing that she has just handed me the solution.
If I refuse, I will have to take up my job and meet Payal’s expenses with my savings.
But if I accept…I can do that, and fulfill my own ambitions.
And so I decide that I will put myself first, for once.
I will be selfish, just like Payal accused me of being.
As soon as my mother leaves, I bring out my cell phone and text Arnav Singh Raizada, asking him to meet me at a cafe in the center of the city.
It’s time to answer him, once and for all.
_______
When I walk into the cafe the next day, he’s already there, waiting for me.
He rises as I approach, and then smiles. I try to read his face for clues, but a sudden bout of breathlessness throws me off track.
This man is seriously too hot for his own good.
I sit down at the table, determined to keep my mind on what I have to do.
Before he can say anything, I take the file from my bag and place it on the table between us.
“Straight to business, Ms. Gupta? Wouldn’t you like to order first?”
“Maybe later.”
“As you wish. So, have you decided yet?”
“I have some questions for you first.”

 

 

“Fire away.”
He leans back, seemingly at ease.
I clench my hands below the table, wondering if I have the courage to go through with this.
I take  a deep breath, and plunge ahead.
“In the contract…you mention that this will be a marriage in name only.”

 

 

His eyes glint with an unnamed emotion, and he leans forward as he replies.
“Yes. Separate bedrooms, separate lives. In private, of course. To everyone else we must present the image of a happily-married couple.”
“I…get that. But what I’m trying to ask is…do you…will you…”
One corner of his mouth quirks up in  an amused half-smile, and I know that he had understood what I’m trying to say.
“Are you trying to ask me if I will sleep with other women when I’m married to you? If you are, then the answer is no, Ms. Gupta. I have a serious problem with adultery, due to the fact that I have seen my parents marriage crumble as a result.”
My disbelief must have shown in my eyes, because the smile becomes a full-blown one now.
“Are you afraid that celibacy will be beyond me, Ms. Gupta? To be fair, I do have some concerns about that. But rest assured, no matter what happens, I will hide nothing from you. There will be no secrets, and I expect the same from you.”
“But what if…one of us meets someone else?”
“If that ever happens, then we’ll deal with it at that point in time. I am not an unreasonable man, Ms. Gupta. This is supposed to be a deal that works for both of us, not just me. If you ever have any doubts, you can come to me without hesitation, are we clear?”
I nod, then look down at my hands.
“There is one change I’d like to make.”
“What is it?”
“It’s the pre-nuptial agreement.”
Surprise shows in his eyes for a moment before it is swiftly banked.
“Yes?”
“I…I will accept the initial settlement. I need that money for Payal’s wedding, and I will not refuse that. It will give me the opportunity to complete my PhD, and that is invaluable. But if there is a divorce…then I want nothing from you. There will be no alimony. I want that part of the contract to be changed.”
He sits back in his chair, and stares at me for a long moment.
“So let me get this straight. You want the initial amount…but nothing after that? Are you sure?”
“Yes.”
“You are an unusual woman, Khushi Kumari Gupta.”
I raise my chin, knowing that I am doing the right thing.
“And that’s why you have chosen me, Mr. Raizada.”
Touche. Is there anything else?”
“Just…I want an assurance that there will be no interference with my work. I have never aspired to be a housewife, and if you are expecting that, then I…”
“I have staff for that, Ms. Gupta. Like I’ve said before, you can do as you please.
I nod again, then sit back in my own chair.
“So if all these changes are made, are you ready to sign this?”

 

 

Am I ready?
I don’t really know.
This is the biggest decision I’ve ever taken, but I know there’s no turning back now.
I’m going to go with my gut, which is currently yelling at me to grab this offer and be selfish.
 
 
“Yes.”
There is  a pause, and then he does something that shocks me.
He reaches across the table for my hand, and grasps it firmly for a moment.
“Khushi, you will never regret this decision. I may not offer you a  conventional marriage, but I can promise you that I will give you the respect and status of my wife until we are married.”
I look down at our joined hands, knowing that he will keep this promise.
I don’t know how I know this, but the certainty floods through me.
This is sudden, impulsive…maybe even rash.
And yet, it feels right.
 
Just to make things official, let me hear you say it, Khushi. Will you marry me?”
I look into his eyes, and see nothing but serious intent there.
I take a deep breath, and sign away the next twelve months of my life.
“Yes, I will be your wife.”
__________
The words echo in my memory, and I open my eyes suddenly.
For a moment, the unfamiliar room confuses me, until I remember where I am.
I am in the penthouse suite, and this is my wedding night.
The last thing I remember is stepping out of the restroom, and walking over to the empty bed. I must have fallen asleep instantly, and my mind had chosen to go back in time to recall the chain of events that have led to my being here.
I turn over in bed, and stifle a gasp of surprise.
The bed is no longer empty.
Arnav Singh Raizada is leaning against the pillow in all his half-naked glory, his laptop open before him.
He looks up at me and an amused expression takes over his face as he registers my astonishment.
“Why the surprise, Khushi? Did you imagine that I would be sleeping on the couch, or on the floor, maybe?”
I had not given any thought to the matter at all, but now that I think of it, I certainly did not expect him to be here after his earlier declaration.
I sit up now, and self-consciously draw the covers up to my chin.
He looks as if he’s about to say something, but the vibrating alert of his phone diverts his attention.
“Raizada.”
“Yes, ten is fine. No, no other passengers. And it will be needed after a week, I’ll let you know when.”
The one-sided conversation makes no sense to me, not that I expected it to.
My mind is still fuzzy with sleep and half-remembered dreams, and I try to think of some way in which I can go back to sleep with him beside me.
“Khushi, there’s something you need to know.”
I look back at him reluctantly, trying to keep my eyes from focusing on all the chiseled muscles on display.
“Yes?”
“I’m leaving for the States tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow? But weren’t we supposed to…”
“Yes, I know that we were planning to spend the next few days with Nani and then leave together, but that’s not possible anymore. I will leave tomorrow, and you can spend some time with her and your family and leave after a week, just as we had discussed.”
“I understand. Your work takes precedence, I’m sure Nani will…why are you looking at me like that?”
He is staring at me with a startled expression, and then he laughs.
“This has nothing to do with work. I’m leaving because Nani will expect us to share a bedroom in Shantivan, and I really can’t do that anymore.”
“What? But you are doing it now!”
“I know. And I can only bear it because work has kept me occupied for the past few hours, and the thought of the uncomfortable couch in the living area is a major turn-off. But to do this for seven days in a row would tax my self-control to the limit.”
My cheeks are flaming, and I cannot believe that I am having this conversation with him.
Deciding to end things at once, I lie down with my back to him and draw the covers tight around my body before replying.
“I’ll see you after a week in California, then. When does your flight leave?”
“That depends on when I get to the airport.”
I look back at him over my shoulder.
“What?”
“I own a jet, Khushi. I’ll send it back for you when it’s time for you to leave.”
A private jet.
Of course.
I’d forgotten that I was now married to a magnate. I need to start learning to take these things in stride, at least for the next few months.
“Fine.”
“Khushi?”
I look back over my shoulder again, and see that he has put his laptop away. He has turned to my side, and his head is supported by one of his hands as he leans over his pillow.
This is really, really a bad time for me to notice the sinful curve of his lips, and I drag my gaze away with difficulty.
“Yes?”
“The background check revealed that you haven’t had  a boyfriend in a while.”
I look away, embarrassed.
I haven’t had a boyfriend, period.
Not that I’m about to tell him that.
“What does that have to do with anything?
“It’s just that it made me wonder…when was the last time you had sex?”
I cannot believe my ears.
Did he just ask me that?
 
I have no idea what to say in reply, and I know that my cheeks are flaming now.
The sheer audacity of the man!
“That’s…none of your business!”
“I’m just curious. And when I’m curious, I make it my business  to know. Tell me, have you ever had sex?”
I cannot stop the gasp of outrage this time, and my entire face feels like it’s on fire.
I look back at him and he’s laughing softly, his face transformed by his amusement at my expense.
“I thought not. Your face is very expressive, you know.And it explains a great deal.”
“Go.to.hell.”
He laughs again, then leans over to turn off the night lamp.
I try to ignore him completely as he settles in to sleep, but then he speaks again, his tone low and intimate, yet amused.
“I wish you could have seen the color of your cheeks just now. They were as red as the sheets below you.”
Red.
There is that color again, one last time.
I turn over, and close my eyes, trying to block him out.
And knowing that it is an impossible feat.
How does one block out a force of nature?

 

 

******************
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19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Saiasmi
    Sep 02, 2017 @ 08:02:01

    Amazing start!

    Like

    Reply

  2. dreamz92
    Jan 31, 2017 @ 04:14:40

    Interesting!! So marriage of convenience it is!!

    Love the way Arnav teased Khushi..😁

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  3. mahrusweety
    Nov 15, 2016 @ 09:55:14

    Beautiful wonderful part

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  4. Bibliobibulus
    Feb 24, 2016 @ 06:49:50

    Holy crap, but this story is riveting! So I started out thinking that Arnav had seen Khushi on the balcony, heard what he said, and fallen for her. So he makes up all this contract business to give himself time to make her fall for him. But then as I continued to read, it seemed more like he had the hots for her, and wanted the legitimacy of marriage to sleep with her. Or maybe she really is a means to an end. But that doesn’t play for me. He’s talking about carrying on the arrangement after a year, if all runs smoothly. Arnav Singh Raizada could not possibly have considered going without sex for the rest of his life. So I’m thinking he’d always planned on seduction. Hmm, I should stop all this speculating, and keep reading.. In case it wasn’t clear, I love this story! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

  5. amoleyendo
    Feb 18, 2016 @ 08:32:10

    Wow…..I love that Khushi is so undecided about the contract and arnav being so upfront … Beautifully written.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  6. Anonymous
    Dec 29, 2015 @ 23:49:59

    Lovely beginning. Enjoyed immensely. Great fun of your work. Don’t ever stop writing, please!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  7. ship1383
    Jul 02, 2015 @ 03:40:26

    That was just fabulous !! Totally loved it, loved it and loved it some more !!! You are a superb writer. 🙂 ship13(IF)

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  8. Aaliya
    Jun 14, 2015 @ 07:26:59

    I’ve just started this story… I do not know what am supposed to write but I want to write something…. Lol… This is just hilarious…And I love each and every word of your writing… You are mind blowing just like your username… Hahaha… Arrogant Womanizer Jerk is just cool and I lurrrrvvveee his honesty towards a certain Ms. Gupta 😉 Well, talking about the Certain Gupta, she is one unusual woman like her man has quoted… Hahahaha…. I like it…. I.Just.Love.It…. 😅

    Oh by the way I don’t know if you know me… Known in IF as LOLWAsAalu… 😋

    Chalo… Me going back to reading …

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  9. ipkndlover75
    Jun 06, 2015 @ 09:06:14

    Beautiful story ….as usual…. Loved the start…liked Khushi being selfish for herself finally…

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  10. sharuag
    May 04, 2015 @ 10:25:18

    I just started reading this story and I had to say you are an amazing writer.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  11. jasbinji
    Apr 27, 2015 @ 06:51:27

    Very well.
    Awesome Update.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  12. kunj1612
    Dec 22, 2014 @ 19:21:03

    awsum….

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  13. kathyarsh
    Nov 30, 2014 @ 17:16:03

    expell expell expell ! Ur choice of words jus amaze me !! I see a true genius in u!! Luvd this ss instantly!! Im a lil on short of tym !! So i may hav to take my leave now !!! Stay blssd !! Luv ya heeps !
    -kitty 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  14. bluemystique
    Aug 24, 2014 @ 16:28:10

    Juhi,

    I am starting to adore this Arnav. He’s straightforward, honest, doesn’t force anything on anyone, and most of all, his love for his Di and Nani is absolutely admirable and heart-warming. All they had to do was ask, and he is willing to marry for their happiness.

    And I love that whatever might have happened in the past, he doesn’t appear to be bitter or cynical because of it. He takes it for what it is, and that is another admirable quality.

    And their exchange on the terrace! What a delight it was to read. Arnav’s introduction of himself, and the banter right after, and their comebacks were something else entirely.

    I also like that he is honest about his attraction towards her, and is respecting her wish to not take it further.

    All in all, your Arnav is bloody brilliant! Bas!

    Khushi is an inspiring character as well. Her silent sacrifices and knowing what she wants in life is something that I am really liking about her character. She is practical, and although she thinks she’s being selfish at the moment, she is far from it!

    I can’t wait to see how their interactions become more intimate once they settle down in their own house.

    Loving the story so far!

    Love,
    Ridz

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  15. srilathalolla
    Apr 29, 2014 @ 23:28:31

    That was really a great update I loved the way he got Khushi married to himself and the way he is dealing with her

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  16. Pinky
    Apr 27, 2014 @ 10:50:24

    Very beautiful story. You have written both Arnav and Khushi’s characters so nicely. You are a wonderful writer.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  17. Latha
    Apr 20, 2014 @ 23:19:21

    Me finally here……
    just wanted to tell one thing and that is that I Like this Arnav very much.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  18. S
    Mar 26, 2014 @ 19:43:26

    I didn’t like what all Payal said to Khushi. Not because Khushi is the lead here, but beacuse no loving family member deserves to be on the receiving end of such words. I feel for Khushi, really.

    I loved the exchange between Arnav and Khushi in the balcony. I so wished it was happening in front of me and I was invisible so that I can enjoy the verbal tennis match. 🙂

    How much and till what extent can Arnav flirt? He might have all that to Khushi, but I’m the one blushing here 😀

    I enjoyed this chapter thoroughly 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  19. samrasaleem7
    Mar 04, 2014 @ 11:38:24

    Interesting story! Enjoyed reading the 1st chapter 🙂 Ohh I think I’m falling for this Arnav Singh Raizada. He’s hot, naughty, flirty…. l likess him 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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