Arnav sat on the huge L-shaped sofa, as Khushi rang for some water and cold drinks. As the steward served it, she sat by him and asked “May I know what’s happening?”
In reply Arnav snorted and bunched up his fists.
Listen, I am getting to understand there is something that’s going on, and you are being coerced by someone to…er…do certain things.” She chose her words carefully.
He shook his head meaning nothing like that.
“I want to know!” She said a little boldly.
“Well I don’t want you meddling with my affairs.” He said sternly.
“It might help if you share” she said softly.
“Ha! And let you carry it to Nitin and expose me?” He sneered at her.
“Why would I do that?” Khushi was hurt.
How could he think that she would resort to such cheap tricks? She felt anger welling up.
“Why not?” Arnav Singh Ranbeera is news material, and especially when he is kneeling down before some stupid conniving %$^#*!” He swore loudly making her to flinch.
“No Arnav how long will you suffer within yourself?” She asked him trying to make him open up.
“And why are you so concerned about me? You hate me. What’s it to you, if I suffer or rejoice. For all that I know, you must be involved in this.” He asked her sarcastically.
She looked at him incredulously at that and said, “I am asking coz I have a right to know.”
“There it comes!” Arnav thought. The woman was very smart. It was a few hours to their wedding and she was already talking about rights! He looked at her disgustedly, and caught her by her hair and stood up saying, “Let me make one thing clear! You don’t have any rights on me! Don’t think that you can pull ranks on me being my wife!”
Khushi shook her head in exasperation even as she freed her hair from his hands. The creepy lech! He touched her! Aaargh!
“I am not talking about rights!” She said coldly.
“Ha! Just now you did that!” He sneered at her.
“You got it that way?” She was surprised.
“I meant that I have a right to know, coz I am involved too.” She said matter-of-factly.
“You married me remember? And also now you have transferred your property to me. Think just once Arnav! If I were the culprit, why would I be so obvious? It is someone who wants to tarnish both of our lives and this marriage thing beats me!” She said adding humour at the end.
She was right! Arnav thought.
But he couldn’t trust anyone!
He said the same, and Khushi saw that he thawed and said, “You don’t have a choice. Someone got us married, and got your property be transferred to me, and want us to always be at loggerheads. Don’t you think it’s very odd?”
“It is! But what do I do?” Arnav smote his head with his fist.
“Tell me! That’s what you can do. I shall guard your secret” she assured him.
Arnav complied, and narrated the whole thing right from the beginning, avoiding the main part, i.e., the connection with his sister. He told her that he did something bad unknowingly in the past, and so he was being targeted.
“What did you do?” Khushi asked him squarely.
“Nah! You can’t get it from me you know, for your crime section” he sneered at her.
Khushi smiled and said, “I have enough stuff as such. Our wedding, how you coerced me, the Namitha Punjal murder mysteries bait…everything. So don’t worry one more secret wont make any difference.”
Arnav stared at her, as she egged him to tell her what he did in the past that was haunting his present.
“Nope.” He said and said, “I don’t need to tell you that coz you are not involved there.”
Khushi shook her head in exasperation and said, “My only point is if whatever you did affected people, then you can go back and trace the affected, and you might reach the culprit that way. Did you get me?”
Arnav sat down as it dawned on to him. That was impossible! Sweat poured down his forehead.
Khushi saw how perturbed he got for what she said.
What did he do that made him sweat even at the mention of it. She wondered.
“Arnav?” She slowly walked to him with a cold drink, and handed it over to him. He stared at it for a second and then drank it in one swig.
“What is it?” She enquired softly.
He closed his eyes and said, “If we think we have out witted the destiny, we are wrong you know? I never thought that what happened seven years back would haunt me after…after all these years.”
Khushi extended her hand to pat him on his shoulder, but thought better off it. She retrieved her hand and again extended it to pat him on a second thoughts but, yikes he was a man! She wouldn’t touch him with a barge pole!
Arnav who was watching her smiled despite all the pressure, and said, “Go ahead! It won’t hurt to pat somebody in distress.”
She shook her head and frowned.
This time Arnav laughed out loud, as her hand was frozen midway, and she was eying him as if he was a giant alligator.
All the pressure and the confusion made Arnav reckless and he said, “If you don’t finish what you started, I might start something new.”
“What? Khushi immediately withdrew her hand.
“I have a habit you know” he winked at her.
“Of what?” She eyed him suspiciously.
“Of…umm… hugging someone when I am in distress and more…” He winked at her again.
“What?” She got up and scurried to stand behind the sofa.
Arnav tried his best to stop himself from bursting out.
“Yeah! Its true!” He said smiling.
“Let me call Granny. You can hug her all you want” she made to the intercom.
In one swift motion, Arnav reached her and held her with both his arms and said, “I am a grown up boy now. I am married you know? So Granny is replaced by someone else.”
“Baa…baa.by whom?” Khushi knew the answer, but she was buying time. She looked around. The Ranbeera house had artifacts but nothing lethal, which could be banged on his head.
He smiled and said, “Looking for an escape means? None darling! It’s you and me into it. Now go ahead and finish what you were doing, else you know what I would do!” He looked meaningfully at her lips.
“Er… let go off me first.” She demanded.
“Nope! Just go ahead and comfort me.” If not anything else, he would teach her a lesson or two about men and make her loose her fear. He thought.
“No I can’t!” She stamped on the floor.
“Why can’t you?” He demanded.
“Cant!” She said again.
“Why? He was as stubborn.
“I just can’t ! Please understand.” She pleaded with him.
“No! I can’t understand tell me!” He chose to be dense
“I can’t think when I am in your arms” she wailed at last.
“Aha! So I have some effect on you other than getting you petrified” he said with flourish.
“No! I mean yes! You don’t have that effect, and I am…pe…pe…petrified” she put up a bold face.
“What is ‘that’ effect?” He asked her tightening his hold on her.
“Er…that effect…er…” she lost trail of thought looking at his arms round her.
“Tell me!” He growled.
“Er… first let go off me!” She said boldly.
“If I don’t?” he asked raising an eyebrow which made him look very determined.
“I shall scream” she told him as seriously.
He laughed loudly then and said, “Go ahead and do that! Everyone would be happy that I am having a whale of time with my new bride.”
She blushed and said, “Get off me!”
“No! First tell me what’s ‘that’ effect?” He growled.
“That …which a man has on a woman.” She replied.
“And why not?” He probed. Why was she averse to men! He wondered.
“I..er…dunno!” She looked away.
“Who was he?” He narrowed his eyes at her.
She gasped and looked up into his eyes and screamed, “ Nobody! Neither then, nor now or will ever be! Did you get me?”
“Why Khushi?” He asked softly, as tears gathered in her eyes.
“Why are you afraid of men? Tell me.” He asked her.
He felt her actually going cold and, he released her but held her by upper arms and said, “Listen, you only told me to share. So why not you try it yourself too?”
Khushi shuddered and he saw her eyes narrow into tiny slits and she darted her eyes in acute distress.
“C’mon!” He egged her.
“No!” She turned her face away, as she couldn’t stem her tears, but she didn’t want him to see her so vulnerable.
He dropped his hands to her palms, and caught both of them and stared at her saying, “My God! They are cold and you are sweating! Oh God! I am sorry! But why do you harbor such aversion to my species?”
“I…er…please leave the topic alone.” She croaked.
He caught her hands and pulled her into him saying, “I just told you my truth! Now its your turn.”
She squirmed and he said, “Then let me teach you something which will help you tide over your fear.”
He then pulled her into him with a jerk, and hugged her tight, even as she struggled and hit him with her fists.
After an initial struggle of a few minutes, she went slack and he said, “Ok now?”
She wriggled again in response, and he tightened his arms further around her and said, “Keep fighting and you can neither win over me nor your fear. Face it and let it out! You will fell better!”
She tried to hit him on his knee with one of her legs, and Arnav had had enough. He lifted her in one go, and took her to the huge l shaped sofa and hurled her on to it and pinned her down by joining her on the sofa.
“Why…r…r.. you doing this?” She smarted, as tears rolled down her ruddy cheeks.
“I need to!” He said, and asked, “Tell me now! Why or what made you averse to men?” She turned her face away and it irritated Arnav, as he bent his head and touched his lips to the crook of her turned neck.
Khushi was in for a shock, as she had the first prick of fear, which was natural for the past seven years but, there was also a very opposite reaction. She actually felt some movement in her tummy, when he touched his lips to her neck.
Acupressure! She reasoned out. Body parts are connected to nerves and they were cross-linked in her body. She deduced.
Only fear was real emotion the rest was plain acupressure! As she was thinking, Arnav asked her again, “Tell me Khushi, why are you scared of men?”
This time his lips moved against her skin, as he spoke and she held on to him tighter coz of reflex reaction, and she shuddered at the vibrations his moving lips created in her body.
Gastronomical issue. She knew it! The base of her tummy felt as if it was going to evaporate. But why were her toes curling? Again acupressure…Nerves connection and damn it! What was happening to her? She cursed herself.
“Khushi?” He asked moving his lips to the base of her throat, and she gasped and said, “Please!”
If he continued this way, all her nerves were going to burst and she needed them intact to face her life.
First thing after getting off him, she would visit her doctor! Suddenly she realized that she was not afraid of Arnav.
She was not afraid of a man.
All the other reactions in her body camouflaged fear!
It was incredulous!
She turned her head to look at him, and didn’t have time to realize that it was a bad move, as Arnav who was kissing the base of her throat didn’t expect that and his lips touched her’s, making her body go into convulsions.
“NNNOOO!” She croaked, and pushed Arnav hard, and Arnav didn’t expect her reaction and fell on to the floor with a thud.