Mrs. Mehta’s Invitation
The rough bark of the tree scratched against her back, and she immediately arched to alleviate the discomfort, but the man firmly pushed her back by pressing his body against hers. She gasped, as his hand pressed against her abdomen, her stomach clenching in response, his fingers brushing over her navel, feeling her smooth skin.
She knew she was going to have suspicious looking red marks on her back, and considering that her blouse was backless, it was going to be hard to cover up. But just as that thought crossed her mind, it escaped just as quickly, because the man’s hand brushed around her waist, to her back, and pulled her completely flush against him. Her hands immediately went to his arms, and they tightened their hold, her nails digging into his suit.
He leaned his head back, and her eyes immediately opened to see his eyes completely heady with desire, and they flickered down to her lips, before meeting her eyes again. Her lips trembled as she waited.
His hand trailed from her back to her hair, fisting up her hair in his hand, as he nudged her head back, and angled her face. She gasped.
The man leaned down, and captured her lips in a searing kiss, pressing her further into the tree, his lips moving expertly over hers, and she hesitantly matched pace. He slowed down, his hand now cupping her cheek, as he angled her face sideways, and deepened the kiss, his tongue brushing over her lips. She reflexively pulled her face back, and he broke away for a second to look at her, his eyes hooded as he looked up at her through his lashes.
“Khushi” He said hoarsely.
8 hours earlier
“No Nani” Arnav said, while everybody was seated around the dining table, and Khushi closed her eyes slowly, aware that Arnav was refusing because he did not want to be seen out with her.
“Iske baare mein humein kono baat nahin karni” Nani said assertively. She was still angry about the secretive marriage of her grandson with Khushi, but she would be damned if she gave the society ladies another chance to stir up more gossip.
“You two will be there at Mrs. Mehta’s party tonight” Nani said, as she casually picked up a spoonful of poha and ate it.
“Arnav. Bas” Nani said, and that was the end of discussion.
3 hours earlier
“It’s 7:30 Nani, and Chote is still at work” Anjali said, tensed as she kept glancing at the clock on the wall.
Nani stared ahead in disappointment, her eyes flickering to Khushi who stood there dressed in a black and gold sari, while she avoided looking at nani, her hand nervously tugging the pallu of her sari around her finger.
“In that case, she will stay behind and come with Arnav” Nani said, and got up. Anjali opened her mouth to protest, but Devyani had already walked away.
Anjali gave Khushi a helpless look before following her grandmother to the car.
2 hours earlier
Arnav entered the house, one hand holding his laptop bag, while his eyes automatically scoured the place to see where Khushi was.
“Arnavji” Hariprakash said, and Arnav turned to look at him, “Khushiji took a cab about 5 minutes ago and left”
Khushi leaned her head against the cool window, her throat clenching with unshed tears as she stared out. She was sure that Arnav had left her at the Raizada mansion, and gone by himself to the party. There was no way he would have bothered to pick her up.
Suddenly the car braked, and stopped. She looked up to see the man staring at her from the rearview mirror, and she frowned, her senses suddenly prickling that it might have been foolish to take a cab instead of one of the drivers from home.
“Memsaab, the car broke down,” The cab driver answered finally, and Khushi sent a quick prayer to her Devi Maiya that she was wrong about the driver.
Arnav raced down the road, his foot pressing hard on the accelerator, as he tried catching up with the cab.
As he turned a corner, coming onto a slightly deserted road, he swore under his breath as he saw a cab stopped in the middle of the road, and a woman standing there, with the driver leering at her. Standing close. Too close.
He slammed on his brakes, and his car screeched to a halt. He stepped outside, not bothering to close the door behind him, and took a step towards the two figures on the road. He did not need to spare them another glance to know that it was Khushi on the road, leaning away from the man, while the driver leaned forward, flashing her his teeth. His hands immediately fisted up, and his face twisted up into a snarl as he took another step forward.
Khushi turned to look at him and immediate relief crossed her features, before she quickly grabbed the pleats of her sari, and ran towards him, muttering out a “Arnavji” as she reached him.
His eyes never wavered from the man, however his arms engulfed Khushi as she collided with him, and he held her tight. He dared the man to stay there a second longer. He knew that if Khushi stepped away, he would have no control over what he did.
But the man stumbled back in fear, sat in the car and immediately drove away.
Arnav and Khushi stood there for a few minutes longer, not letting the other go.
1 hour ago
Khushi looked at him from the corner of her eye and saw as his knuckles had turned white from his grip on the steering wheel, the muscle in his cheek jumping in agitation, his jaw more defined, his brows furrowed together, and the edges of his lips pulled down into a deep scowl.
She swallowed hard, and looked away, her hands once again nervously tugging the pallu of her sari around her finger.
15 minutes earlier
He parked the car at the venue, and switched off the engine, still refusing to look at Khushi who was waiting for him to say something, nervously twitching in her seat.
“Arnavji” Khushi finally said, but Arnav banged his hand against the wheel in frustration.
“Who told you to go on your own?” He snapped at her, “And that too in a cab? There were drivers at home, dammit!”
Khushi opened her mouth to respond, but Arnav cut her off.
“Don’t you think Khushi?! What were you trying to prove by doing this? That I am the bad guy in all of this? Trying to gain everybody’s sympathy?” He snapped
Khushi’s lips suddenly thinned, her eyes widened briefly in disbelief, before the tears started flooding her eyes. However she looked away just as suddenly, and without uttering a single word, opened the door, slammed it shut behind her and started walking away.
“What the fuck?” Arnav muttered under his breath, and he immediately followed her, the anger starting to fog his mind as he raced behind her.
She held her sari pleats with one hand, her heels slapping against the concrete as she hurried down the pathway towards the entrance of Mrs Mehta’s house.
“Khushi” Arnav said in a low threatening voice, aware that raising his voice would not end up well. He picked up his pace, and grabbed her by her upper arm, turning her around as he hissed out, “How many times have I-”
His words died in his throat as he looked at the tears streaming down Khushi’s face, while she refused to meet his gaze. She roughly pulled her arm away, and then immediate glanced around to see if anyone was seeing this fight of theirs, before turning her face away and quietly wiping away her tears, willing herself not to cry anymore. But the tears kept pouring out of her eyes, as his words kept replaying in her mind.
Arnav looked away painfully, before he took a step towards her, his arm automatically reaching forward to console her, but she immediately took a step back. Her breathing increased as she tried to keep her temper in check, and Arnav growled softly,
“Don’t create a scene here, Khushi”
Khushi’s eyes immediately flashed up at him, and her eyes narrowed before she said through gritted teeth, “I am not the one making a scene Mr. Raizada. I would rather get this charade of husband and wife over with so I do not have to spend a second longer with you”
Arnav’s eyes narrowed, and he gritted his teeth as he took another step towards her, just as a car drove past them to park somewhere. Suddenly aware that they were too close to the house, and anybody could see them, he immediately grabbed her wrist, and tugged her to follow him.
Khushi tried twisting out of his grip, but his hand tightened, and she had no choice but to go with him.
Just as they reached a secluded corner in the garden, completely out of view from anyone coming from or going to the party, Arnav turned around to face her, his arms immediately crossing at his chest. Khushi mirrored his pose, and jutted her chin forwards, letting him know that she was not going to back down without a fight.
Arnav’s breathing intensified as he waited for her to explain why she was so foolish that she did not take the drivers from home, or she did not wait for him. Shaking his head in frustration, he bit out, “You are unbelievable”
Khushi’s control snapped then.
How dare he call her unbelievable when he was the one throwing baseless accusations at her.
He brushed past her to go towards the party, but she immediately grabbed his wrist, and pulled him back. Momentarily surprised, his shocked eyes rose to meet hers, an eyebrow raised, and Khushi scowled up at him as she gave him a small shove.
“Khushi” Arnav warned.
“I am unbelievable?” Khushi said, her voice rising, not caring that anybody could hear, “What does that make you then Mr. Arnav Singh Raizada?”
“Keep your voice down”
“No” Khushi retorted, “I kept calling you, wondering when and if you were going to come get me” She hissed.
“Do you know how embarrassing it was when it was 7:30, the whole family is waiting for you to come, and Arnav Singh Raizada’s own wife does not know where he is? Forget knowing, even when I called, not once did you pick up your phone, and not once did you text me. I didn’t know what to tell Naniji, Anjali Di, or anybody!” Khushi said, her voice rising to the point of shouting, and Arnav took a step forward, but she took one back to maintain distance.
“I don’t know why you are punishing me, I don’t know what I have done” She said, her voice breaking as the events of tonight and the past few days flashed through her mind, “But I was so scared tonight”
Arnav remained quiet, his throat clenching up as he saw a fresh trail of tears running down Khushi’s cheeks. She looked down, her shoulders shaking, and Arnav looked away painfully.
“I was so scared” She repeated, “I did not want to take a driver to the venue because I wasn’t sure if you were already there. And Naniji had specifically told me to come with you. I figured that if I came via a cab, I could make a better excuse for why we did not enter the party together, rather than having to explain why we came in separate cars”
“But…” She trailed off. She wiped away her tears, and looked up at him, her eyes once again narrowing as she spat out, “You think I was trying to send you a message of some kind?” And with that she gave him another shove on the chest, and Arnav bit the inside of his cheek to stop himself for retorting.
“I don’t know whom I pity more. Me, for allowing myself to be tied in this kind of a relationship where I get no respect, or you” She said, “Because I genuinely feel sorry that you live with this suspicion of people where you are unable to find the good in anyone. You feel the need to justify everybody’s actions with some kind of selfishness because that is the kind of person you are!” She screamed, the tears continuing to stream down her face, and her hands waving around as she tried to make her point.
“Khushi” Arnav warned once again, taking a step forward, while she took another back, violently shaking her head.
“Nahin!” She said, “Let me speak!”
“Your selfishness has completely clouded your mind, it has turned your heart into one of stone where you cannot even feel anybody else’s emotions let alone your own!” She yelled, and Arnav immediately took a step forward to silence her, but she took another back, and found the bark of the tree behind her pressing into her back, stopping her from going any further.
“I hate you Arnav Singh Raizada” She finally said, “I genuinely wish I had never met you in my life. You are the kind of man I know no mother would want her son to become,” Khushi said, the tears clouding her vision, but she still saw as Arnav’s eyes flashed up in anger, and she knew she should stop. She should have stopped ages ago, but she couldn’t.
“You are the kind of man I wish my own son would never-”
“Enough!” Arnav growled, and immediately put a hand to her mouth, stopping her from finishing her sentence, and pressed her firmly back into the tree, his body pressing against hers as he immobilized her.
Khushi’s eyes widened as she looked up at him, and was surprised to see them wet with unshed tears. A ball of guilt suddenly appeared in her stomach, and her hands rose to grip his arms.
“Enough” He whispered again.
Silence stretched out between the two, with Khushi staring up at him with wide eyes, while Arnav looked down at her. He still held her against the tree, and his hand was still against her mouth. Neither made a move to shift away.
“I got held up in a meeting that went on for longer than expected” Arnav explained his delay. “I did not pick up your calls…” He hesitated for a second before continuing, “I admit that I did not pick up your calls because I did not want to speak to you”
Khushi looked away from him then, but he leaned his head forward, causing her eyes to travel up to meet his once again.
“And when I reached home and found out that you had…that you had taken the cab, I was furious” He whispered.
If anybody had walked towards the garden now, they would have seen a couple in a close embrace, with the man leaning into a woman who was pressed up against a tree. But Arnav and Khushi did not care how they appeared to others. While Khushi was glad that there was some form of communication happening between them, Arnav was desperate to make this right – to explain his actions.
Taking in another deep breath, Arnav had to stop himself from closing his eyes as her scent washed over his senses.
“What I said to you, was not right” Arnav said quietly, “And for that, I am sorry Khushi”
Khushi held her breath, as her heart skipped a beat. She knew that he was not one for apologies.
She swallowed hard, waiting for him to finish.
“My actions may seem inexcusable, but this is how I react” He said, “I am unable to think with a clear head when I get angry”
“I…” Arnav hesitated again, looking away for a brief second, and Khushi waited, “I am sorry”
Khushi felt the tears sting her eyes again as he uttered the apology once more. She nodded, letting him know that she accepted it, as her hands travelled to his biceps and settled there.
The wind picked up the pallu of her sari and blew it into the air, as Arnav and Khushi continued to stand where they were, neither taking a step away from the other. Time seemed to stand momentarily still as Khushi found it hard to tear her gaze away from his.
His hand was still on her mouth, and Khushi’s breathing was starting to intensify as she suddenly became aware of how close he had come. The heat started from her neck, and settled on her cheek as she stared up at him, the tears drying in her eyes, but clinging to her lashes. She wanted to lower her gaze, to look away, to keep the façade of not being affected, but she found it hard to do so.
Arnav did not waver his gaze either, rather his face slowly turned from remorseful to one of seriousness, as he too became aware of the position the two found themselves in. Khushi felt her stomach muscles tighten slightly as she saw the intensity in those eyes as he continued to look at her. The light-colored hazel eyes that she had grown accustomed to were now looking at her with such an expression that Khushi felt as though she was standing naked in front of him.
Her gaze suddenly dropped, as her grip on his arm reflexively tightened, her blush intensifying. His hand dropped from her mouth to the curve of her waist and let it rest there.
His breath washed over her cheek, and her eyes slowly fluttered to a close as she tried calming her racing heart. A few seconds elapsed, and she felt his thumb starting to make lazy circles on her waist – on the bare skin right above her petticoat.
A small whimper escaped her lips before she could stop herself, and her eyes darted open. She looked back at him, and saw as his gaze dropped down to her lips, settling there for a second or two, before looking up to meet her eyes once again.
Khushi felt the breath leave her as she saw the raw desire in those eyes, and she felt a shiver of uncertainty wash over her. Could she? Did she want to?
He shifted his body slightly, so it was closer to her, and Khushi closed her eyes once again, the answer clear to her.
Her grip on his arms tightened, and she automatically angled her head back, her lips darting out to moisten her – suddenly dry – lips.
Arnav’s grip on her waist tightened, and Khushi bit her lip in response.
“Fuck” Arnav muttered, and before Khushi could respond, she suddenly felt a pressure against her lips, and felt the dhak dhak of her heart stop completely stop for a second.
Her eyes opened wide suddenly as she realized that Arnav Singh Raizada was kissing her and she had no idea what to do.
His eyes were closed, and so Khushi closed her eyes as well, as she waited for him to take charge of the kiss. She let one hand travel from his arm to his shoulder, her nails digging into his suit, her lips still closed, but pressed against his.
Arnav soon realized that Khushi was a complete novice to this, with no experience. While she did not step away from the kiss, however she did not make an effort to move her lips or deepen the kiss either, choosing to keep her lips pursed and pressed against his. Realising that Shyam had tricked him into believing that Khushi had a relationship with him, Arnav felt a surge of anger flow through him. He had let himself believe that Khushi would have had a relationship with Shyam.
The pressure against her lips slowly built up as Arnav slowly, yet firmly, moved his lips against hers, teaching her, and tilting her head to deepen the kiss slightly. Arnav tried reigning in his desire, however he took another step forward, bringing her body flush against his, the hand that was on her jaw trailed to her hair, letting his fingers run through her silky strands. His breathing became heavier and sharper, as the pace of the kiss picked up, and he felt the desire start to fog his brain.
Slow down Arnav told himself, remembering that this was Khushi’s first kiss. And so he started to move away, when Khushi suddenly clutched at his shirt, and pulled him in again, not letting their lips separate.
Arnav groaned at that, and pressed his lips harder, his hands pulling her closer, before pushing her back firmly against the tree, his hands now resting on her waist, travelling to her navel, before going back to the curve of her waist, just where her hips jutted out.
The rough bark of the tree scratched against her back, and she immediately arched her back to alleviate the discomfort, but Arnav firmly pushed her back by pressing his body against hers. She gasped, as his hand pressed against her abdomen, her stomach clenching in response, his fingers brushing over her navel, feeling her smooth skin.
She knew she was going to have suspicious looking red marks on her back, and considering that her blouse was backless, it was going to be hard to cover up. But just as that thought crossed her mind, it escaped just as quickly as Arnav’s hand brushed around her waist, to her back, and pulled her completely flush against him. Her hands immediately went to his arms, and they tightened their hold, her nails digging into his suit.
He leaned his head back, and her eyes immediately opened to see his eyes completely heady with desire, and they flickered down to her lips, before meeting her eyes again. Her lips trembled as she waited.
His hand trailed from her back to her hair, fisting up her hair in his hand, as he nudged her head back, taking absolute control, and angled her face. She gasped.
Arnav leaned down, and captured her lips in a searing kiss, pressing her further into the tree, his lips moving expertly over hers, and she hesitantly matched pace. He slowed down, his hand now cupping her cheek, as he angled her face sideways, and deepened the kiss, his tongue brushing over her lips. She reflexively pulled her face back, and he broke away for a second to look at her, his eyes hooded as he looked up at her through his lashes.
“Khushi” He said hoarsely.
Khushi moaned, as her hands went to his hair, and pulled him forward. Arnav obliged, and his lips met her neck, nibbling on the skin just above her collarbone.
Khushi gasped, and her eyes snapped open, as she tried calming her conflicting emotions, but found it easier to get lost in the passion she was feeling at that moment.
She closed her eyes again, and tugged at his hair, and he growled, a deep growl that reverberated through his chest, and Khushi felt another shiver run down her spine.
He looked up at her, and Khushi’s eyes opened to meet his gaze. His hair was completely disheveled, his lips swollen, and his eyes still dark with desire as he stared back at her.
Khushi immediately felt her face heating up with embarrassment as she realized that they had been out in the public where anybody could have walked in on them.
But her lips were still tingling, and in awe she brought up her fingers up to her lips, wondering if they were as swollen as Arnav’s.
Arnav followed the movement, and he groaned, leaning forward, letting his forehead rest against hers.
“Khushi” He whispered again, his eyes closing, and Khushi felt a smile appear on her lips. Her hands travelled to his chest, allowing them to take their own path as she just tried getting the feel of him. She wanted to feel him all over, wanted to take all of him in.
“If you do that, we won’t be going to the party” Arnav said, his eyes still closed, but his breathing had deepened.
Khushi’s eyes immediately snapped open, and she gasped, causing Arnav to lean back and look at her.
“The party!” She exclaimed, “Naniji will kill us!”
Her hands immediately went to her hair as she tried fixing it.
“Oh, she is going to be so mad!” She muttered under her breath, not caring that Arnav was watching her, with a thoughtful gaze, “We were already so late, and now…” She trailed off, as she fixed her pleats, making sure they were tucked in properly, the safety pin in place, and then smoothened out any creases.
She looked at Arnav and gasped again.
“Haye davi maiya! You’ve got lipstick on your face”
Her hand immediately darted forward, and wiped the lipstick from the corner of his lips. Arnav grabbed her hand as she made a move to pull away.
“Khushi…” He trailed off.
Khushi looked into his eyes and knew he was trying to apologise for the way he had behaved prior.
“I know, it’s okay” She replied, a small smile coming on her face, “C’mon Arnavji, we have to go now!”
Arnav leaned against the tree, raising a finger, asking her for a minute.
Concerned, Khushi immediately came to him and put a hand to his forehead.
“What happened? Are you sick? Haye Devi Maiya, we shouldn’t have stayed out in the cold so long! Oh god!”
“Khushi” Arnav chuckled, shaking his head, “I am not sick. But I need a minute”
“What? Why?” Khushi asked confused, and Arnav stared at her, raising an eyebrow, before he shook his head and looked away not responding.
And then it dawned on Khushi. She looked down, and then immediately looked away, her eyes momentarily widening, before a blush settled on her cheek. Clearing her throat, she stuttered,
And Arnav closed his eyes, leaned his head back against the bark and tried thinking of something else. Anything else.
10 minutes later
Arnav Singh Raizada and Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada finally walked into the party. His hand was resting on her back, as he guided her around, making introductions, his thumb lazily making circles on her skin, enjoying the shiver that ran down her spine.
As they passed Shyam Manohar Jha, whose face was twisted into a painful expression, Arnav looked at him coldly, passed him his traditional smirk, and continued on with his wife, pulling her closer, his hand travelling from her lower back, to the curve of her waist, as he turned his head and dropped a kiss to the top of her head, inhaling her intoxicating scent as he did so.
That small public display of affection would be the new topic of gossip amongst all the aunties that were present. Devyani, who was seated at the table and had been watching the couple with her calculative eyes suddenly smiled.
The two had tried hard to hide the coldness in their marriage. They worked hard to appear like a normal couple to the family, and had put the façade that they had foolishly given into those emotions had run away and gotten married.
But she had noticed the cracks in their explanation, and in their relationship.
She had seen the pain in both their eyes to know that their stubbornness was the reason why they refused to accept their feelings for one another.
However as she saw them walking around the party, she felt a surge of relief wash through her. Something had changed – and she was sure that it had changed for the better. Khushi’s tinted cheeks were a highlight of the happiness the girl felt, her radiant smile stretching across her face. Whereas Arnav…
Devyani’s eyes travelled from Khushi’s smiling face to the man that stood next to her.
Her grandson could not stop stealing glances at his wife, his hand on her waist, his grip fairly firm, and his thumb resting just under Khushi’s blouse, occasionally stroking the skin of her bare stomach.
Devyani immediately looked away as she felt that she was intruding on a private moment. To anybody that would look at the couple, they would think that it was a normal display of affection – especially between newlyweds.
But she knew these two. And she knew that what she was seeing was something she had never thought she would ever bear witness to. Arnav had finally let a girl into his heart – completely.
“Everything okay, Nani?” Anjali asked her as she saw the smile on her grandmother’s face.
“It finally is, bitiya”