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“Titaliya! Arnav is here.”
“Okay… I will be down in five minutes.” Khushi yelled down to her father, as she finished getting ready for their dinner date. She was looking forward to being alone with him. After their encounter yesterday, they had barely had an opportunity to spend time together. It had dawned on her that they had hardly been together, alone, since prior to their engagement. This date was long overdue, and much needed after their time apart.
She decided to wear her new black designer anarkali suit which had an antique thick gold border, with gold embroidered bodice and sleeves. It was simple, yet elegant for their evening out together.
Arnav waited patiently, with his eyes and ears trained on the staircase. He stood in the living room, talking with her parents and Buaji, who asked more questions than he would rather answer tonight. It had been a long day at AR, he was in no mood to socialize with anyone. Exception being Khushi, of course. But he stood there politely with a smile, doing his best to stay focused.
He finally felt at ease hearing her footsteps, and turned to see her rapidly coming down the stairs in her strappy heels. His heart coming out his chest, watching her almost miss a step, but it didn’t faze her as she continued.
She smiled, approaching him and stood next to him ready to leave.
“Sanka Devi, there is no rush that you are running down the stairs. If you break your legs, how will you get married?”
“Uff Buaji, nothing is going to happen. And if I break my legs, Arnav will carry me around, but regardless I will get married.” She raised her eyebrow at him, and he fought back the chuckle that was on the verge of slipping forward.
He felt a sudden urge to pull her into an embrace, but knowing her family might not approve he stayed put.
“Shashi, this girl is getting out of hand. Do you see what she is saying?” Buaji gasped when Khushi winked at her.
Shashi smirked at the banter between Khushi and his sister. This was something the both had been doing since his daughter had learned to speak. But he had to give it to Khushi today for her reply. The new confident Khushi was one he admired and was extremely proud of being around, after the engagement. All thanks to the man standing next to his daughter.
“Jiji, we don’t have to worry anymore. In a few days my Titaliya will be Arnav’s problem. I hope you are ready, Bitwa.”
“I am definitely ready for Khushi to be mine. And I can promise you she will never be a problem for me. Ever.”
A few moments later, after leaving her house, he entwined his hand with hers and they walked towards the car.
“Where would my Sweetheart like to eat tonight?”
She stopped in her tracks, then looked up at him.
“Anything but Indian, please, pretty please. That’s all we have been eating, and I am sick of it. Can we do Asian? It’s been so long. Oh and I plan to have a glass of wine tonight.”
He grinned, and kissed her hand.
How he had missed her.
“Anything you want. And, I know just the place we can go.”
An half hour later, their car pulled up to a premier luxury hotel to dine at a trendy Asian restaurant located on the hotel’s rooftop.
Arnav got out of the car, and opened the door for Khushi. He put out his hand towards her, helping her out of the car.
“How sweet, always a gentleman, Mr. Raizada.” She curved her lips in a smile, as he tightened his grip on her hand pulling her closer.
“Ms. Gupta…” Before he could say anything further, they were interrupted by a few paparazzi standing in the corner who were walking towards them.
Arnav instinctively stood in front of Khushi, and grasped her hand.
“ASR! It’s been awhile since we have seen you out here.”
“What has Delhi’s eligible bachelor been up to?”
“Is this your new girl, ASR?”
“Come on, let us get a picture of the two of you…”
His jaws tightened and lips thinned with his anger rising at the intrusion of his personal space and at the questions being thrown at him. She looked up at him, and squeezed his hand. He needed to get her inside before they started to take any photos and asked any further questions.
“Look down.” He whispered to her, blocking her from their view. He wrapped his arms around her waist, then took quick strides to go inside the hotel.
Once they were in the lobby, the manager walked up to them.
“Welcome ASR! We are so glad to have you here after a long time. How are you?”
“The fucking paparazzi is out front, so I am not doing fine. I suggest you get rid of them before I leave, otherwise you will have to find yourself a new job. Am I clear?”
Khushi shook her head, and pulled her hand away as anger came over her. He abruptly looked at her, then back at the manager to continue his tirade.
She waited till the manager walked away, and looked around to make sure no one was around.
“What is wrong with you Arnav? It wasn’t his fault for you to speak with him that way. I can’t believe this is happening right now.”
“They need to do a better job keeping them away from the premises, and clearly that wasn’t being done. So I had every right to say what I did. Let’s go.”
He took a hold of her hand, and proceeded to walk towards the elevator. Neither of them uttered a word, waiting for the elevator to arrive.
She fisted her free hand, trying her best to calm down. First the questions outside, then his unwarranted anger towards the manager.
Right now all she wanted was the privacy they had in New York where they blended in. But in Delhi, that privacy no longer exist. Arnav Singh Raizada or ASR, was a prominent name in Delhi. The past few weeks planning their wedding was enough for her to realize that. The looks, treatment, attention whenever his name was mentioned was proof enough when they were out shopping, and making the wedding arrangements with his family.
How was she going to blend into this world?
When the elevator doors opened, she let go of his hand and stormed inside. She headed straight to the corner without giving him a glance, she turned to face the door and crossed her arms across her chest.
He stepped inside to stop in front of her, but when she avoided his gaze, he had enough. He turned around and pushed the stop button on the elevator.
Khushi gasped when the car halted, and held onto the bar on the back wall. Arnav shrugged his shoulders unaffected by the sudden stop. At this point he didn’t give a damn.
“What do you think you are doing?”
“We need to talk, and right now this is the only place we are going to get privacy. I suggest we fix our moods, so we can enjoy our evening together. Do you agree?”
“You are unbelievable! Do you realize the scene you created downstairs? It was bad enough what happened outside, but then…”
He stood with his eyes fixed on her, knowing there was something else that is bothering her.
She didn’t move as he came forward, stopping mere inches from her. Her heart thundered, when he leaned down and whispered.
“I am sorry you had to see that, but I am not sorry I said that to him.”
“Why am I not surprised? After all in Delhi, ASR, can do and say whatever he pleases. Isn’t that correct?”
He ran his hands through his hair in frustration, hearing her low cold tone and took a few steps back.
“It doesn’t matter where I am, I like to keep my personal life private so excuse me for lashing out downstairs. But you won’t understand…”
“Why wouldn’t I understand? Did you not hear the questions they asked you? They affect me damn it! Do you know how uncomfortable that was? I knew going into this relationship that you were in the public eye, but recently it has hit me what that truly means. I am not comfortable with all of this yet.” Her eyes blurred with tears, as she fought hard to hold them back. She looked down, not wanting him to see her this way.
But it was too late, he had already seen the anguish in her hazel orbs, a sight he hated. He wrapped his arms around her, and they stood in silence for a few moments before he decided to speak.
“Sweetheart, I know this is overwhelming, and I should have known better than to bring you here. I can’t change any of this when we are in Delhi, but when we get back home to New York we will have some of our privacy back. And, once we are married the whole world will know you are my wife. This bachelor is officially taken by Khushi Kumari Gupta. For now, I will take you home.”
She wrapped her arms around him tight, deciding not to let this ruin their evening. This was something she was aware of going into the relationship, and there was no running away from it.
“Cheapskate! I am not letting you get off that easy. After that stunt yesterday, you owe me a meal. And I refuse to eat the food at home, so I suggest you get this elevator moving again. You know how a hungry Khushi gets.”
His heart swelled at how easily she moved on despite not being comfortable with the situation. He couldn’t blame her for feeling this way.
She wrapped her arms around his neck pulling him closer towards her face. He shifted her to the corner, fully covering her as he towered over her, then leaned down grazing his lips against hers.
“You realize there’s a camera in the elevator.” His voice, low and husky, sending shivers down her spine.
Her heart racing as she looked around noticing there was one in the opposite corner, explaining why he was standing over her.
“Well, I guess the powerful ASR will have to make sure this gets erased.”
He nodded, curving his lip. And in one swift movement, he took her lips in a searing kiss. At that point seeing the desire in her eyes there was no holding back, neither did she as she kissed him back.
They pulled away a moment later hearing the elevator alarm. Both of them grinned as he pushed the button and the car resumed its journey taking them up to the rooftop. As the doors opened, he laughed when Khushi whispered in his ear.
“Now that was one exhilarating kiss!”
A few minutes later, Khushi returned from freshening up to find Arnav speaking with the hostess about their table. With the restaurant in a flurry, she assumed there was would be a wait before they would be seated. But to her surprise, the hostess led them outside to a private area to their table.
The outdoor seating was surrounded by water, greenery and lights making the atmosphere conducive for a relaxed dinner under the night sky.
“I know how much you like to sit out in the open, so figured you would prefer it out here.” He pulled her chair out, and she sat down taking in the different elements surrounding them.
“It’s beautiful, this place is so unexpected. But how did you get us a table, when the restaurant is packed. And it’s only us out here in this section…”
“Let’s just say I have connections which is who I was texting on our way here in the car. Plus I wanted privacy with just the two of us. So what shall we order…”
They both went through the menu, placing their order with their server. While they waited for the food, Khushi filled him in on the wedding preparations for all the upcoming functions. He listened to the instructions she was throwing at him. Much to his reluctance, they also discussed some outstanding business with AR.
When the food arrived, they both indulged in an eclectic mix of Asian fusion cuisine.
“You know what this reminds me of… our first date.” She sat back taking a sip of her wine, looking out at the Delhi city view.
“Technically that was not our first date. It was us getting drinks after work to celebrate your first week at AR.” He raised his eyebrow, challenging her to say otherwise.
“Well I don’t care, I am counting that as our first date. And you better as well, Mr. Raizada. Here try this, it’s really good.”
He opened his mouth, as she fed him a bite of her Thai curry stir-fry with coconut sticky rice.
“Hmm… that is good. You are becoming very bossy, Ms. Gupta. I fear what will happen when you become Mrs. Raizada. I have to admit our first date was fun, especially the shot game. You my love were slightly drunk.”
She laughed, putting her wine glass down.
“Yes I will admit that I might have been a little tipsy. And it’s best I not drink anymore tonight. I think this wine might be getting to me. Though I needed a drink after all the mayhem with the preparations.”
He put his hand over hers, and she smiled, tilting her head.
“I think on our honeymoon, I would love to see a drunk Khushi.”
“Bet you would, but I think it would be more fun to see a drunk Arnav. Speaking of honeymoon, you haven’t given me any details. Where, when, how long?”
He had been trying to avoid giving her the details. But he knew there was no way he can get away with it now.
“We are leaving the day after the reception on the third of January for seven days… and where, you will find out when we get there.”
She dropped her fork on to the plate, and glared at him.
“How can you not tell me where we are going? How the heck am I going to pack? Arnav, this is not fair.”
He shrugged his shoulder, continuing to eat, avoiding her pointed gaze that was ready to take him out. If looks could kill, he would have toppled over.
“You know what baby, I will give you sometime to change your mind. In the meantime, answer these questions. When was the the last time we had sex?”
“Answer the question.”
“The day of our engagement…”
“Why was that the last time?”
“Well your parents were in town, then you came here…”
“Really? Tell me the real reason why?”
“Khushi… okay fine… we decided to wait till we were married. Happy?”
She curved her lips, and smiled in satisfaction, getting ready to throw the bait to see if he will take it. There was no way she was going to allow him to keep their honeymoon a secret.
“Very happy. Now, this is how it’s going to work. If you don’t tell me where we are going on our honeymoon before the Sangeet, which is in two days, then we won’t be having any sex on our honeymoon. Can you imagine what that would be like? Not fun at all…”
“What the fuck!”
He shot up from his seat, looking down at her. Her eyes glinted at the absurd challenge she had thrown at him. She gestured towards his chair, urging him to sit, but he shook his head.
He walked over to her, and leaned down close to her ear, and whispered.
“Sweetheart, it’s not only me that loses out. And if my memory serves me right… you enjoy every bit of it. So, I would rethink this little challenge.”
She closed her eyes, feeling his warm breath against her. She felt goosebumps erupt over her body, as he placed a sensual kiss on her neck.
He swiftly went back to his seat, and sat down, watching her slowly opening her eyes.
They both stared at each other, neither one willing to give in. For now they decided to see how far they can take this challenge.
A couple of hours later, they stepped out of the elevator along with a few other occupants to the main floor of the hotel.
“Oh my God, ASR! It’s so great to see you, darling. I have missed so much. Where have you been? And why haven’t you responded to any of my calls or messages?”
Arnav’s eyes widened recognizing the woman approaching him. The tall, fair skinned brunette model was someone he had casually dated for a couple of months prior to leaving for New York over a year ago. They had decided to go their separate ways. And to see her now with Khushi stepping out of the elevator right behind him, only meant one thing… trouble. With a capital T.
Before he could say anything further, she wrapped her arms around him, pulling him in an embrace. He stiffened keeping his hands to his side.
“Do you want to get a drink? We need to catch up, perhaps we can pick up where we left…”
“Sorry Anita, we just had dinner and are headed home now.” He spoke up, before she said anything further as Khushi came and stood next to him.
Khushi wanted to smack the woman who was hanging onto Arnav. She glared at her with a fake smile on her face, and pulled him back, wrapping her left arm in his. She made sure her engagement ring was visible for the other woman to notice as she squeezed his arm.
“Hi, I am Khushi… Arnav’s fiance.”
She put her hand forward but Anita hesitated for a moment before shaking her hand. Khushi tightly gripped her hand, silently conveying to back off.
“Um… nice to meet you, Khushi. You are one lucky woman…”
“I would say I am the lucky one to have this beautiful woman agree to marry me. Well, it was nice seeing you, but we need to leave now.”
Arnav knew it would be best to head out, seeing the expressions on both of their faces. He was worried about Khushi’s reaction. While she was putting on a strong front, but he knew it couldn’t be easy seeing your partner’s ex in front of you. It most certainly wasn’t for him when Sameer was at AR.
After saying their good bye, Khushi walked ahead without any expression or emotion. She didn’t know how she should feel at that moment.
She smiled inwardly, knowing exactly who the woman was. She had seen a couple of pictures and articles when she had researched Arnav prior to her interview. But why was this bothering her right now? She trusted Arnav, so this should not impact her, right?
When they approached his BMW M6, Khushi was surprised when Arnav opened the front passenger door for her.
Arnav knew they needed to talk, but with Bala in the car, she was not going to say anything. He didn’t want her to leave tonight with this bottled up inside. She was already stressed in midst of the preparations.
After she was seated in the car, he went around to the driver’s side and drove off. Both of them remained quiet, as he continued to drive, while she gazed out the window.
“What a contrast between the two cities… New York and Delhi. Right baby?”
He was taken back when she spoke softly with warmth, smiling at him. He nodded, taking a hold of her hand and placed it on his chest.
“Very different in so many ways. Which one do you prefer?”
“New York! I am looking forward to going back home and getting our normalcy back. Planning a wedding is not fun at all, and everything else on top of it. I really think we should have eloped.” She chuckled, glancing outside the window.
“Should we go to the mandir right now? You say the word, and I will make it happen tonight.”
“Don’t tempt me, Mr. Raizada! Where are we, anyway?”
He stopped the car in a secluded area on top of a hill, it was dark with the stars and city lights glimmering.
“Let’s go in the back seat… come on, don’t give me that look as if I am crazy. It will be fun, maybe we can make out back there.” He winked at her, and she grinned at him.
A few moments, later they were snuggled together with their feet raised up on the front seat.
“I guess my idea of our dinner date wasn’t such a great idea. Should we discuss…”
“The elephant in the lobby?”
He sat up to look at her, and she simply shrugged.
“Yes it makes me feel better to call her that… and there is nothing to discuss. All I know is that you are mine. And, I swear if anyone ever touches you, I will… um… pull their eyes and hair out.”
He stared at her for a moment, then they both burst into laughter.
“Waise Khushi, it was good to see the jealous and possessive side of you tonight. That was rather sexy, your dark smoky eyes tonight which I can’t seem to keep my eyes off of…”
His eyes darkened with desire, caressing her hand, then slowly making his way up to her arm. Feeling her mouth dry, she swallowed as he moved closer to her. He cupped her cheeks, and brought her face closer to his.
“It’s time for a much awaited meetha session. And there is no one around to come in our way. Shall we, soon to be Mrs. Raizada?”
With passion clouded eyes, she nodded and pulled him closer, capturing his lips.
Finally, they were left alone where nothing but the two of them existed before all the festivities began tomorrow.
I couldn’t resist using this song for this part 🙂
As of today, all chapters of Stripped with the exception of the Epilogue will be password protected. With the story now having been complete for a month, I am taking the measure to protect my story from plagiarism. Once The Shaadi Special is completed, this blog will be made private. Please note access will only be given to readers that I know, and whom I trust. Hope you all can understand!
For those that are still reading the continuation of Stripped, thank you for staying back!
Part 4 will be posted on Friday, see you then!