Part 8 – The Honeymoon

 

“It looks like we’re ready… hey, what’s the matter?”  

 

Arnav held his wife’s hand, sitting down after speaking with the pilot, now that they were ready to take off. But it seemed she was lost in another world gazing out the window.

 

“It’s nothing. I can’t believe we are leaving Delhi, and everyone behind.” She smiled, turning to face him, as he leaned in, buckling her seatbelt.

 

“It’s only for a week, I told you earlier we will stop in Delhi and stay for a week before heading back for New York. There are some critical things I need to take care of for AR before heading back home. And generally only the couple goes on their honeymoon… but if you want, I can tell the pilot to hold the jet, and invite the family to join us. Shall I?”

 

She gasped, smacking his arm, as he buckled his seatbelt laughing, then signaled the attendant they were ready for take-off.

 

“I think we can leave them behind this time. I am looking forward to having my husband to myself for seven whole days with no work or family around.”  She winked, wrapping her arm in his.

 

“I love the sound of that. Seven days in paradise with no interruptions, and finally no more damn rituals.”

 

“Yes it was a bit too much, but now we can relax.” She glanced outside the window, feeling the plane moving.

 

“That is the plan. Sweetheart, are you comfortable? It’s going to be a long flight, but I promise the destination will be worth it.”

 

“How can I not be comfortable? Have you seen this thing? Of course you have, you had it built to your specifications. I still can’t believe you have your own private jet.”

 

“Correction… we, have a private jet… I hope you haven’t forgotten our wedding vows, my dear wife. What mine is yours, and what’s yours is mine. Am I correct?”

 

She glanced around the spacious luxury aircraft that had all the conveniences one could need while airborne, including a bedroom and full bathroom. This wasn’t her first time flying in it, she along with the family flew together to Delhi from New York over a month ago.  But this was their first time flying together, and there was no doubt this would be the means they would travel going forward.

 

A fact she couldn’t deny, and something she needed to embrace. She knew it was important to him for her to accept it.  She nodded in agreement, then leaned against his shoulder, hearing the engines roar, and picking up speed to take off.  

 

And in an instant they were soaring up to the sky, on the way to their honeymoon destination. The excitement building up, sitting in companionable silence while the jet reached its cruising altitude.

 

He kissed the top of her head, when she let out a yawn.  It was almost ten o’clock, he wondered if she was tired.

 

Today had been a long day with the pag phera ritual, then Khushi had dragged him to the mall before they went home, for some quick shopping for the trip. Followed by dinner at Shantivan where Nani surprised Khushi by inviting her family.  

 

He was anxious to leave earlier, but both families had pulled out the waterworks when they were leaving. They only let go of Khushi after he informed them he was extending their stay in Delhi after they returned from their honeymoon.

 

“Excuse me Sir, can I get you and Ma’am anything to drink or eat?”  

 

He came out of his thoughts, hearing the flight attendant, and looked down at Khushi who was resting her head on his shoulder.  But she let go of his arm, sitting back in her seat and shook her head.

 

“I will have a scotch on the rocks, and for Mrs. Raizada, a glass of red wine. Oh and the chocolate mousse cake with strawberries, I had requested. That will be it, thank you.”

 

Khushi sat with her mouth open, hearing him order a glass of wine and dessert for her. She wanted to say no, but it sounded too good at the moment to pass up. The glass of wine should help her sleep on the long flight ahead of them.

 

“That’s it, you leave me no choice…”

 

Unbuckling his seatbelt, he leaned over to cup her face in his hands and pulled her in for a deep, passionate kiss.  She moaned when he bit the bottom of her lip wanting access inside her mouth which she quickly granted.

 

Something he had been wanting to do all day, as she walked around in her saree, followed by seeing her in his favorite jeans and t-shirt. But now with her mouth open, he couldn’t resist.  

 

He pulled away, hearing the clinking of the ice as the stewardess approached them. He smiled, looking at his thoroughly kissed wife, who sat back with her eyes closed till the attendant walked away.

 

“What was that for? Not that I am complaining.”  She blushed, as he fed her a bite of the cake.

 

“I have a lot more in mind, once we are done with this nightcap.” He raised his glass to hers for a toast, and continued.  “Here’s to officially kicking off our honeymoon.”

 

“Cheers!” They said in unison, then took a sip not taking their eyes off of each other.

 

Both enjoyed their drinks, while she grilled him on what he had packed for them. At first she wasn’t thrilled about the honeymoon being a surprise, but it seemed he had it all taken care of. She admitted to being happy to sit back, and see what he had lined up for them in Bora Bora.

 

Later when Arnav walked inside the bedroom, after speaking with the pilot, his eyes widened. Khushi stood by the bed, dressed in a short silk black nightgown. He stared at her after closing the cabin door, as she walked up to him, stroking her fingers from his forehead to his lips. Her seductive voice making his heart race.

 

“If I recall correctly you mentioned something about joining the Mile High Club yesterday. Hain na?”

 

He curved his lip, and nodded, before lifting her up in his arms.

 

“I have been looking forward to this moment for over a month now.”  

 

He placed her on the bed, before slipping out of his jeans, and his Harvard hooded sweatshirt, leaving nothing but his boxer briefs on. She smiled, when he climbed into bed, his heated gaze burning right through her body.  Both igniting their passion instantly, fulfilling their desires, as they joined together.  Their adrenaline spiked, as they found ecstasy like never before thirty thousand feet up in the sky.

 

And with that, they joined the Mile High Club, an exhilarating experience in the sky.

 

*****

 

As they got off the jet, they were embraced by a tropical warm breeze. And they were dressed accordingly for the heat, him in a green t-shirt along with navy shorts and brown leather open sandals., while she had on a white maxi skirt with a red t-shirt.  

 

The clear blue skies surrounded by palm trees, bringing forth bright smiles at finally arriving at their destination. Well almost.

 

Arnav informed her they needed to take a boat to the island, but she wasn’t expecting the luxury yacht that welcomed them on board. The exotic beautiful flowers they handed her lit her face, as she looked over at Arnav. He fitted right in with his aviators looking devilishly handsome, leaning against the railing.  

 

She had never seen him so relaxed, taking the glass of champagne being offered to him. Ladies first always being his motto, he handed it to her before taking one for himself. They stood close together, soaking in the sight of the beautiful ocean being whisked away to the island.

 

“Arnav, why are they passing the resorts? Didn’t you say we are staying in Bora Bora?” She gazed up at him, when the yacht passed a long strip of island, which had private huts circling around it.

 

“We are, Sweetheart, but not there, just a few more minutes. Though we will be coming here one evening for dinner at The Four Seasons. And if you want to do any shopping.”

 

She nodded, burying her face in his chest. The time difference, and jet lag catching up with her. But for now the breathtaking view, the adventurous journey felt like a dream.

 

When they arrived at the island, Khushi was left speechless, walking in a daze to the bungalow they were going to be staying for the next seven days. His wicked smirk appeared, when it dawned on her that this was a private island. No one besides the two of them would be staying here, not even the staff who were here only during specified times set by them.

 

She hadn’t uttered a word while the staff gave them a quick tour and instructions.

 

They both took in the three bedroom bungalow, set in a natural environment with rich hardwoods, airy open beams, and open wooden shutter windows.  The South Pacific breeze flowed throughout the house, following you wherever you went.

 

She stood on the veranda outside the master bedroom, lost in the serenity of the island which was true paradise. The air and scent of the shore, simply taking her breath away.

 

He watched his wife from afar for a few minutes, and smiled. After getting to know Khushi, he had predicted she would fall in love with this place. She loved the ocean and nature which this island had. There was something about water, that transformed her into a whole another person. And this was no exception, seeing the serene expressions on her face.

 

“You hungry? Lunch is ready.”

 

She leaned back against him, as he wrapped his arms around her waist, both looking at the turquoise colored lagoon which was a few steps from the deck.

 

“Arnav, this place is exquisite! Seeing this in front of us, compared to the brochures, internet, or even in our dreams, doesn’t do justice. Though it would have been fine to stay at a resort, but I do love that we are alone on this island.  Oh, how I am starting to love my husband’s obsession with privacy.”

 

He turned her around, and kissed his wife for fully embracing this private getaway.  

 

“Glad to have you onboard Mrs. Raizada, and now we can do as we please, wherever, whenever, whatever… we want!  And I plan on maximizing our private time over the next seven days.”

 

He raised his hand to her face, caressing her flushed warm cheeks, as she looked down from his heated gaze piercing right through her.

 

“Do you not like that idea, Khushi?” He placed a lingering kiss on her cheeks.

 

“Um… woh… we need to unpack…” She closed her eyes, titling her neck, feeling his lips lingering on her neck.

 

“Later.” He husky tone whispered, placing a long sensual kiss on her neck.

 

“Um… I… am hungry.” She swallowed, as he feasted his eyes on her.

 

“And, so am I.”

 

*****

 

“Khushi, what’s taking so long? I wanted to go for a swim before dinner…”

 

He walked inside the bedroom, dressed in his swimming trunks, eating an apple to find his wife sitting on the bed with her bathing suits scattered on the bed.

 

“What is this? You are not even dressed…”

 

“Exactly! What is this?! These are two piece bikinis… this is why I wanted to know exactly what you packed, but of course you omitted the fact this is the type of swimwear you selected for me. Arnav, I can’t wear this.”  

 

“Yes, you can and will. Now get up and put one of these on, or I will put something on you myself. And if I undress you, we know what will happen. So, what’s it going to be Mrs. Raizada?”

 

“But look at this…”  She scrunched her nose, picking up a top and bottom, which to her resembled underwear.

 

“Sweetheart, this is called swimwear.  And what are you worried about, when it’s only us here. Be a good girl, and… wear this one. I would love to see my wife’s hot body in this. Please…” He picked up a red bikini halter top with matching boy shorts for the bottom. Since the bottom resembled very short shorts compared to panties, she sighed in acceptance. She took them from his hands, and stood up from the bed.

 

“That’s my girl, now go get changed and I will wait for you on the deck outside. Hey, that’s my apple…”

 

“Oh well, it’s mine now.  You see my husband is giving me a workout, and I need to keep eating to build up my energy. If I want to keep up with him… kyu? That is the advice you gave me earlier.”  Giving him a saucy wink, she bit into the apple.

 

“Unbelievable.”  He murmured, walking out of the bedroom to get himself another apple. It wasn’t only her that needed to eat. His little vixen, was giving him a workout as well.

 

When Khushi walked out onto the deck a few minutes later, he took off his sunglasses, and stood there with his mouth open seeing her in the swimsuit.  In that moment, he was glad they were alone on the island to keep lurking eyes away from his wife. She looked hot, the two piece accentuating her toned, slender body. Though from the looks of it, she looked uncomfortable, walking nervously towards him pushing her shades on top of her head.

 

“Wow, my wife looks sexy!”  He leaned in, and placed a kiss on her lips.

 

“Isn’t it too revealing?”

 

“Absolutely not in front of me. It looks great on you. I am serious, Khushi, you can give any model a run for her money.”

 

“Always flattering me, though I do love the compliments. Thanks, baby!”  She winked at him, wrapping her arms around his neck.

 

“Shall we go in the water, pool or the ocean?”

 

She glanced towards the ocean, then looked behind him where the infinity pool wrapped around the deck. She smiled, looking at the gleam in his eyes and whispered.

 

“Arnav, with my Arnav.”

 

The next day, they decided to stay put and relax, recovering from jet lag. Arnav lounged back on the chaise, catching up on some reading with books he had downloaded on the iPad. While Khushi laid back with her eyes closed, thinking about the past couple of months.

 

“Arnav, do you hear that?” She sat up looking at him, taking off her shades.

 

“What?” He shrugged his shoulders, looking around, not having any clue what she was referring to.

 

“Nothing! That’s what… no one pulling me to ask about the wedding, no rituals to discuss, no wedding shopping, no work, no phone constantly going off. And look at you, reading! Even though it’s probably a business book but who the fuck cares. This is just remarkable!  Ahhhhh… I am loving this!”  

 

She smiled widely, pounding her feet on the wooden deck and raised her hands up.

 

“Looks like bridezilla is officially out of your system. Thanks to your Devi Maiya, for returning my Khushi back to me.”

 

“Was I really a bridezilla? I didn’t think I was that bad…”  She furrowed her eyebrows, pouting her lips.

 

He let out a husky laugh, sitting up then placed the iPad on the table between the two chaise they were occupying.

 

“Oh, it was bad! I can’t believe you made me cave in and tell you where we were going for our honeymoon.”

 

“It’s not like you told me everything.”

 

“You’re lucky I even told you at all, but I had no choice seeing your face before that mooh thing ritual. Here…”  He handed her the bottle of sunscreen, then laid down on his stomach.  

 

“Mooh Dikhai.”

 

She stuck her tongue out at him, making him chuckle, as he closed his eyes. She squeezed some sunscreen in her hands, and started to apply it on his back. Her fingers tracing his smooth back. Then she moved to his toned arms, before slowly moving to his legs.

 

Once she was done, she glanced at him dozing off, and smiled. She was asking for trouble, when she gently pulled down his shorts exposing his perfect behind. Taking a bit of lotion, she applied it, then smacked both cheeks.  

 

Arnav jerked up sitting up, dazed not believing what just happened. He watched her run off to the other side of the deck.   

 

“Khushi Singh Raizada, wait till I catch you and see what I do to you. Promise you won’t be able to sit on that pretty ass of yours.” He abruptly stood up, and chased her around the deck to the side of the house, towards the pool.  

 

“Arnav Singh Raizada, don’t you dare! I just washed my hair, and I don’t want to go in the water. Please no, I am sorry baba… Please!” She whined, pleading with her hands joined together, as he cornered her at the edge of the pool.  

 

“Fine, but I will get you later…” He slightly turned away, and she relaxed closing her eyes. But there was no stopping him after what she had pulled, he would get his way. He lifted her, putting her over his shoulder, then rubbed her behind.

 

She screamed out his name asking him to stop, uncertain of what he was going to do next. Her heart raced, as he continued to caress both cheeks. She was perfectly situated on his shoulder, her face buried in his back, as she whimpered.  

 

He couldn’t resist, and smacked her hard.  

 

“Ouch, that really hurt! You’re so mean…”  She cried out, hitting him on his back.  

 

“Perhaps the cold water will help soothe your sore bum. Time for a swim, sweetheart.” Without a further thought, he jumped into the pool with her kicking and screaming. Both sinking underwater together, with him holding her tightly as she tried to push him away. They both came up together, and he grinned as she glared at him.  

 

“You… I… I…

 

“I know Sweetheart, I love you too!”

 

They took full advantage of their time on the island, exploring it during their walks. Trekking out to the middle of the island where they found different exotic flowers, fruit trees. When she had spotted a mango tree, she insisted he climb it to get a few down for her. Of course, by now she had learned that bribing him with sex worked very well, which she used to her full advantage.

Their best experience, however, was exploring under the ocean surrounding the French Polynesia. He was surprised at her willingness to try adventurous activities, such as scuba diving. It was the best way to see the deep sea which consisted of sea life and tropical fish. Though he had the most fun cruising around with her on a WaveRunner, listening to her screaming her heart out, and admittingly so had he. It was a thrilling experience, speeding through the ocean with her clinging onto him.

But as honeymooners, they took every opportunity to get their fill of passion anytime, day or night. Both open and carefree, exploring their sensual desires.

Though their last night had him stunned…

“I can’t believe we are leaving tomorrow, and then it’s back to reality. You clinging to my souten, and AR consuming our time in a matter of couple of days.”

 

She looked up at him, as they walked hand in hand for their after dinner walk.  A habit they started from their first night on the island.

 

“We can always retire now if you want. I actually could get used to this.”

 

She laughed.

 

“Nope, I can’t imagine you being content with this lifestyle for too long. And to be honest, even I would get bored after sometime. We are both driven by our careers, and at the end of the day that’s what gets us motivated, and excited to take AR to new heights. Plus we have to get our company to the billion dollar mark.”

He stopped, and stared at her, as she raised her eyebrow.  

“Did you just say our company?”

 

She nodded, as he pulled her in his arms.

 

“So does that mean you will accept my wedding gift?”

 

“If that is what you want, then yes. At least it will get you off my back, and we can put this behind us. But I still feel…”

He covered her mouth with his hand, shaking his head. This had been an ongoing discussion between them this past week, as he tried to convince her to accept this for him. He needed to do this more for him, than her.

 

“You have just made me extremely happy, my love!” He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into a tight embrace. She closed her eyes, letting out a heavy sigh, finally being to accept this for his sake.

“You know what we should do, make this an annual tradition…”  He continued a few moments later as they started to walk again. “We should take a three week vacation at the end of the year, stop in Delhi to spend time with the family then take an extended vacation for our anniversary, just the two of us. Discover a new place every year. Of course that is till we decide to have a baby…”

Now it was her turn to stop, her heart skipped a beat hearing him say baby. They rarely talked about having kids, yes she knew he wanted children, as did she but hearing him voice it out loud today made it feel much more real.  

“Baby?”

“Yes… why, do you not want to have kids?” He looked at her puzzled, since he knew she loved children. It was apparent in the way she loved Aditya.

 

“Oh Arnav, of course I want us to have kids. They would be a symbol of us, our love. This is the first time we are actually discussing it, so I am a bit surprised.”

 

He nodded, continuing to walk in silence for a few minutes. Both thinking about their future together, having a family.  

“How many?” He asked softly, facing her to gage her expression.

 

She smiled up at him, and he could see the tenderness in her gaze, that warmed his heart.  

 

“At least two… I was an only child, and always wished for a sibling. And now that I see you and Anjali, I would want that for our children. And you… how many?”

“Two, I guess… but I definitely want a girl! And, we are not stopping till I get one.”

She burst into laughter, at his declaration.

“So if we have three boys…”

 

“Then we go for number four, five, only stopping till I get my princess.”

“You are out of your mind… no way are we having that many kids. I am not a baby making machine, hope you know that.”  She stood there with her hands on her hips.  

“I know, sweetheart. But we have some time for this argument, for now let’s enjoy our last night in paradise.”

They continued their walk, talking and laughing about their future. When they neared the house they decided to sit on the sand near the ocean for a few minutes before heading back inside to start the task of packing.   

She looked up at the clear night sky where the stars seemed be at an arm’s reach despite being far away as they glimmered. A view like no other, that left her in awe every night, as she gazed up at the sight.

He sat there rubbing her back, both relaxed, leaning against each other. She put her head on his shoulder.

 

There was something about the moment that felt surreal, as if she had a sense of deja vu. The memory vividly coming back to her, and she started to giggle.  

 

“Would you like to share what has you so amused?”

He gazed at the captivating hazel orbs that even in the darkness, shimmered up at him. She straddled onto his lap, as his hands made their way inside her dress, caressing her thighs. Her body warming with his touch, making her shift closer to him.

“Do you remember the morning of the mehendi when we texted about my dream?”

“How can I forget? But we didn’t get to finish the conversation.”

“What if I show you? However I expect your full cooperation for fulfilling this fantasy…”

“It would be my pleasure.”

He closed his eyes, feeling her soft lips against his, as she took control intensifying the kiss. His hands splayed around her hips, as she rubbed against him. She moaned, pulling away, her body in flames, yearning in anticipation.

“Skinny dipping.”

 

“What?! You must be joking!”

 

He looked up at her, as she stood up, mischievously shaking her head. He got up on his feet, watching her pull off her dress and throw it in his direction.  He caught the dress, putting it over his shoulder.  She stood in front of him, in a sheer deep purple strapless bra with matching panties.

 

She laughed, as he nervously looked around, trying to cover her up towering over her.

“Wait, haven’t you been telling me this week, we are alone on this island to do as we please. Just so you know, those swimsuits you made me wear this week, is equivalent to what I am wearing.  Though, it will coming off very soon… and I expect you to do the same.”

“But Khushi.”

 

“Aren’t you curious to know what else I dreamt about, which had me moaning with pleasure.” She stroked his face with her fingers, and then clasped his arousal, stroking it.

 

“Khushi…”  Her name coming out in a husky moan, the heat in his gaze reflecting hers.

 

She curved her index finger, alluring him to join her as  she went inside the water. And he slowly walked over, stopping at the edge of the shoreline, watching her swim.

 

“Baby, catch!”  She yelled, throwing her bra at him, quickly followed by her panties.

 

He stood there. wondering what had come over his wife to be so bold, but heck he wasn’t going to stand here and watch.

 

It was time to join her, and find out what this dream was about. He quickly bared down to nothing, then got into the water. She went up to him, winding her legs around his waist, as he lifted her up.

 

“I can’t believe you have us both in here with nothing on, now what’s next? I hope it involves me taking you in here, I need you now.”

 

“It definitely does, I want to know what it feels like having you inside of me in the ocean.”

 

She placed her lips on his, no words needed to express what they desired from the other, as they kissed. And with those unspoken words, the gentleness of every stroke, caress, turned into raw passion.  The ocean, taking them to the depths of passion on their last night in paradise.

 

A night, that will be remain with them forever, like the many memories created from all the ceremonies, and rituals from their Shaadi.

 

A shaadi that fulfilled their dreams of becoming one, as husband and wife.

 


 

 

If I loved writing this the first time, I loved it even more this time around. I enjoyed reading it while slightly polishing it up. The rituals, ceremonies, clothes, songs, honeymoon destination, coming all together for a perfect closure for Stripped and my favorite Jodi! With that, it’s time to say goodbye.

 

I hope you enjoyed my little token of appreciation for the support all of you have given me throughout this journey. And a big thank you to those who came back for more during Stripped, The Shaadi Special. Please accept this writer’s heartfelt gratitude for your continued support.

 

Please note, on January 31st, this blog will officially be closed 😦 I know many of you are attached to this story, but it’s something that I need to do to protect my work as this story has been plagiarized word for word twice.

 

One final request, if you will please leave your mark so I know you were here, and reading, it would mean so much to me. Your words are a writer’s reward!

 

A very Happy New Year in advance!

 

Loads of love,

Jigs

 


 

 

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Part 7 – The Suhaag Raat

Anjali stood at the main entrance with a thali in her hand, along with the rest of the family eager to welcome Khushi into her new home. She smiled fondly, taking their aarti, showering them with flowers.

 

“Khushi, now with your right foot knock down the kalash.”  

 

She pointed down to the urn containing rice at the doorway.  Khushi nodded, slightly lifting her lehenga, tipping it over with her toes, spilling the rice.  

 

Anjali smiled, her heart swelled seeing her brother and dear friend as husband and wife. Something she had hoped for a few years ago, now a reality. Both of them made for each other, and she was ecstatic they had both found happiness.

 

“Arnav bitwa, you remember the Raizada tradition right?” Mami giggled, looking at her nephew’s confused expression, before continuing. “The groom carries his wife inside.”

 

Khushi gasped in sheer embarrassment as everyone around them laughed. She looked up at Arnav, who was smiling mischievously and shrugged his shoulders.

 

“Come on, bhai, don’t be shy.” Aakash smirked, as Payal nudged his arm, shaking her head, seeing Khushi blush. She remembered how mortified she had been during her time, which made her sympathize with her.

 

“You ready, sweetheart?” He whispered in her ears. Before she could say or do anything, he put his arm around her shoulder, and scooped her up in his arms, stepping inside Shantivan with his wife for the first time.

 

She fit perfectly in his arms, she thought gazing at him. Her heart and body reacting to his touch being close to him. His scent intoxicating her senses. She wanted to bury her face in his neck, as she would have back in New York.

 

“Keep staring at me like that and I won’t be responsible for my actions.” He said softly, placing her back on her feet. She looked away quickly before he did anything scandalous in front of the family. Though she found him carrying her in front of everyone rather scandalous.

 

What kind of tradition was this anyway?

 

There wasn’t much time to think further, as the family quickly dived into a few games much to Arnav’s annoyance. But she benefitted when he let her win to put an end to them rather quickly.    

 

Anjali and Payal walked her to their room, it seemed they both were up to something. It became apparent as Arnav approached the room with Aakash and Shyam who insisted on dropping him to the bedroom.

 

“If you want us to leave you alone, hand over our gift.”  Aakash yelled once they were all gathered in the bedroom.

 

“What the fuck!”  Arnav looked at his family incredulously, as they stood there with their hands out.

 

“Yes Arnav, it’s after three o’clock and we are all sleepy, but I am guessing you both aren’t planning to sleep. After all it’s your suhaag raat. So, the sooner we get our gift, the sooner you can get down to business.”  Anjali winked at them.  

 

“Anjali, really?! Seriously, you have a problem!” Khushi glared at her friend.

 

“Well I have no gifts, so if you would please excuse us.”  Arnav took a few steps, pushing them towards the door.

 

“No gifts, no problem, Sale Saab.”

 

“Yes Arnav bhai, cash will work just fine, kyun everyone?”

 

They started shouting “we want cash”, making Arnav quickly pull out his wallet to get rid of them. Anjali sneakily put her hand over his, snatching it away from him.

 

“Thank you little brother, we will now treat ourselves.”  She smiled, as everyone started cheering walking out of the room, wishing them luck.  

 

But Anjali came back, stopping in front of them, taking Khushi’s hand and placed it in his. All jokes put aside, as she smiled.

 

“Arnav, promise me that you will always keep Khushi happy.”

 

“I promise, Di.”

 

Khushi wrapped her arms around her friend, now sister in law, whispering, “Thank you”, before she left their room.  

 

She glanced around the room fidgeting with her dupatta, as Arnav locked the door. The room had been decorated with flower arrangements spread around the room, garlands hanging around the bed and string lights covering the back wall.  

 

“Nervous, Mrs. Raizada?”

 

She turned around startled, bumping into his hard chest, as he pulled her closer.

 

“Um… no… why would I be? It’s not like this is the first time that I have been alone with you in a room… behind a closed door.”

 

“Well you were fidgeting with your dupatta looking around our room, so I just figured.”

 

She smiled, wounding her arms around his neck.

 

“Actually, I was wondering… how does one sleep on a bed that has rose petals spread around in the shape of a heart?”

 

“Is that what you were thinking about? It’s a rather simple concept, you just lay down on the bed. Would you like to give it a try?” He laughed, kissing her forehead, as she frowned up at him for being mocked about a valid question.

 

“Uff, I know but it looks so pretty and we are going to ruin it by sleeping on the bed. They put so much effort putting it all together. Waise, do you think they put something underneath to prank us? I have heard people put papad so when you lay down, it makes a noise.”

 

She got out of his hold, walking over to the bed, and pressed down. She shook her head finding nothing, making him smirk.  

 

He watched intently, as she sat at the edge of the bed, and slipped off her shoes. The tiredness of the day seemed to have caught up with her with her shoulders drooping. She continued to glance around the room, finding her bags in the corner near his closet, and then she smiled remembering his present.

 

“Sweetheart, would you like to get changed? I know you are tired, so if you would like to freshen up, then you can get some rest.”

 

She furrowed her eyebrows, when he sat down next to her.

 

“What happened to the suhaag raat ritual you have been impatiently waiting for the past few days?” She winked.

 

“That is true, but it’s been a long day, so you get a pass tonight.”

 

“Baby, I am not at all tired.”  She leaned towards him, placing a kiss on his cheek. “Can I give you your wedding gift?”

 

He nodded, watching her excitedly get up from the bed, her tiredness quickly vanishing. She grabbed a wrapped gift box from her overnight bag and handed it to him, as she sat besides him. She urged him to open it, as he stared down at the box, slowly untying the bow, then ripped the paper.

 

He looked up at her surprised, holding up a frame that had a picture of them with the beach house behind them. A picture she had insisted they take in the Hamptons by someone who was walking by.

 

It dawned on her, watching as he caressed her face in the picture, that he thought the picture frame was his gift.

 

“Baby, you remember the beach house in the back? It holds some special memories for us. A few of our firsts.”  She smiled, taking his hand in hers. “So, I figured, I would gift you the house to always keep it close to us and make new memories there.”

 

“You purchased it.” He said softly, fixing his gaze on her.

 

“Yes, for you. That is my wedding gift. What do you think?”

 

He took a deep breath, overwhelmed with an array of emotions running through him. But seeing her eagerly waiting for a reply, he pulled her into his arms after placing the frame on the bed.

 

“How do you always do this? Rendering me speechless giving me the most thoughtful gifts. This is a perfect gift for us. But Khushi, this house is very expensive. I could have easily…”

 

She placed her fingers on top of his lip from saying anything further.

 

“But then it wouldn’t have been a gift. Aren’t you forgetting the lucrative salary AR pays me, so I can afford it.”

 

Arnav sat there amazed, listening to Khushi as she filled him in on how she acquired the house and worked with Jack from Delhi finalizing the closing date. Now all that was left was his signatures when they returned.

 

This was probably the most thoughtful, not to mention expensive present anyone had ever given him. And he wanted to kick himself for not thinking of it. But it was time for him to give her the gift he had anxiously been waiting for tonight.

 

“I also have a gift for you.” He opened the side drawer, pulling out a file then handed it to her.

 

“Arnav, you have already given me so much. I don’t need anything else.”  

 

“This is more for me than you. Please open it.”

 

She slowly opened the file, seeing his plea. She sucked in her breath, realizing what these documents contained. Arnav handed over fifty-one percent of his own share of AR, this meant she would now have a seat on the board, and have majority stake of the company.

 

It was absurd of him to take such a drastic step, she thought. She shook her head feverishly, and handed the file back to him.

 

“No, I refuse to accept this. Baby, this is too much, I appreciate the thought… I really do, but I can’t.”  She smiled, placing her hand on top of his and squeezed it.

 

“Khushi, this is not too much if you are my equal in our relationship. You are entitled to it, being my wife, and this is my way of knowing you will always be secure in your future should anything happ…”

 

She interrupted, before he could say anything.

 

“Nothing is going to happen, you will always be with me, so I am secure.  Now can we please just not talk about this tonight?”

 

She abruptly stood up from the bed, walking over to the vanity and sat down starting the task of removing the hundred pins holding her dupatta and hair in place.

 

He had expected this reaction from her, but hoped she would have accepted what is rightfully hers. It was already done with their marriage now being official, and would be in effect tomorrow. He decided to not push the topic for now, knowing she needed time.

 

She relaxed, watching him from the mirror, as he placed the file back in the drawer.  

 

He stood up, unbuttoning his sherwani, then took it off, placing it on the chaise. Glancing at her reflection in the mirror, he saw she was struggling removing her chunri. He took a few steps, and stood over her, moving her hand away. He started the task of slowly removing the bobbin pins from her hair.  She kept her hand out, as he handed them to her.

 

“How many of these things are there?” He shook his head, looking at her smiling in the mirror.

 

“Way too many… I was sitting there for hours, as they kept poking these damn things in my head. It took an army of people to make me look like this.” She laughed.

 

“I can bet they didn’t have to work too hard to make you look beautiful.”

 

He glanced at her reflection in the mirror, as she slightly shook her head. Keeping his gaze fixed on her, he removed the dupatta off her head, throwing it on the chaise. His body reacted, seeing her exposed open back. The short choli, barely held together by three strings.  

 

She raised her hand to unclip her hair, but he stopped her, taking it upon himself to unwind the flowers, wrapped around the hair bun. He removed the hair clips, loosening her hair from its confines, as it tumbled down her back.

 

He walked around, removing her maang tikka, then kissed the top of her head.

 

“You looked so beautiful today.”  He whispered in her left ear, removing the heavy earring.  

 

She closed her eyes, clutching onto her lehenga, as he proceeded to do the same on the other side.

 

Feeling his warm breath on her neck, she tilted her head as he removed the remaining jewelry from her neck with the exception of the mangalsutra. She trembled, squeezing his shoulder, as he placed sensual kisses up her neck.

 

“Arnav.”  She moaned, meeting his heated gaze.

 

He continued removing all the jewelry, from the bangles down to the payals, leaving a fiery trail with his kisses on her hands to her legs. She felt her stomach tightening, warmth filling her with his touch.

 

Her knees weakening with desire, as he took her hands and helped her stand up.

 

“Do you know how happy I am today?”

 

She nodded, leaning up towards him.

 

“You.”  He caressed her lip with his, placing a soft kiss, as he untied the top dori of the choli.

 

“Are.”  He placed another gentle kiss, untying the second dori.

 

“Mine!” He took her lips in a searing, possessive kiss, untying the last dori, and slipped the choli off her arms, dropping it onto the floor.

 

His hands ran all over her back, before coming around to firmly cup her breast.  He groaned, pulling away from the kiss, burying his face in the crook of her neck.

 

“And, you are mine.”  She whispered, kissing the top of his head.

 

He smiled, stepping away, mesmerized by the sight in front of him. His blushing bride, standing there only in her lehenga. Unable to wait any longer to see what she had on underneath, he commanded.

 

“Take it off.”

 

She raised a questioning eyebrow, making him smirk, as he pointed to the lehenga.

 

“Forgot your manners, Mr. Raizada?”

 

Please, Mrs. Raizada.”

 

“Much better!”

 

She took her time, slowly untying the dori, then sliding down the zipper, before letting the heavy lehenga weighing her down, fall around her feet.

 

He stared at her, fixated on her every movement, as she lifted the lehenga and choli from the floor. With her back turned to him, she placed her clothes neatly on the chaise.  

 

He let out a soft moan, seeing her exposed behind which the thong failed to cover.

 

“White lace. Interesting choice for our suhaag raat.” He whispered in her ear, coming up behind her, then caressed the lace in the front.

 

“Do you not approve?”

 

“Does it feel like I don’t approve?” He pressed his arousal up against her thigh, placing soft kisses on her neck, as she turned around to face him. Her passion filled eyes making him lose control, as he quickly stripped himself.

 

The naked hunger in his eyes held her captive. Her heart beat erratically in anticipation of being one again, as he kissed her deeply. Their bare skin touched the other, desire running through, exploring the other with their hands.

 

Khushi cried out, feeling his mouth over her swollen peak as he suckled down hard, while caressing the other in his hand. Her body spasming out of control, with his touch of pain and pleasure.

 

“Arnav, please.” She pleaded, feeling his mouth over the white lace, then his hands tearing the fabric, before discarding it away.

 

The scent of her arousal drew him closer, as his mouth hovered around her folds. The temptation, the desire, reaching its peak, as he parted her legs, feeling and tasting her.

 

He stared up at her, her eyes closed with her hands in his hair. Seeing her flushed cheeks, and knees buckling, holding onto him, he couldn’t wait any longer.

 

She opened her eyes, feeling him swing her up in his arms, then walked towards the bed.  he pushed the strung flowers to one side, as he placed her on the bed in the midst of the rose petals.

 

Khushi shifted herself up, resting her head on the pillow, then put her arms out for him, wanting him closer. He straddled himself on her, his breath taken away at the sight before him. She lay on their bed with nothing on but the mehendi on her arms and legs, darkened because of his love, the mangalsutra around her neck and sindoor on the parting of her hair, both of which he had placed, signifying she was married to him.

 

Overwhelmed with love for her, he leaned down placing a soft kiss on her lips, then whispered.

 

“I love you so much.”

 

She placed her arms around his neck, pulling him closer to her lips.

 

“Hum bhi. I want you, Arnav.” She murmured softly, before she arched up taking his lips for a passionate, desperate kiss. He pressed against her, deepening the kiss as their tongues reunited.

 

She moaned in pleasure, feeling him inside her, coming together as one, as husband and wife. He sat up, and stilled, as she wrapped around him.

 

“Khushi.”  He slowly thrusted inside her, as she began to move her hips along with his.

 

Both igniting the passion they had missed, the pace increasing with a desperate vigor, the cries getting louder of being fulfilled with love.  

 

He captured her lips, with a hard thrust almost bringing her to the edge as she dug her nails into his shoulder, pushing him further inside her.

 

“Sweetheart, open your eyes.”

 

She did as he said, as he caressed the sindoor in her hair.

 

“Oh Arnav.” A lone tear escaping her eye, seeing his love shining through.

 

“I want you to come for me now.” His husky tone muttered in her ears, as he pulled out of her, coming back inside with one hard thrust. She screamed out his name, falling apart at the seams. She clutched the pillow with her hands, as he continued to find his own release. With one last hard thrust, he groaned out her name several times, collapsing on top of her.

 

They were content that night in each other’s arms, finally coming together as one. Husband and wife.

 

*****

 

Khushi smiled at her husband, who was sprawled out on the bed, peacefully fast asleep. There was something serene about the softness in his expression when he slept, opposite to the hard look he displayed while awake.  

 

Last night after their intense love making, both of them had taken a shower, since she wanted to clean the makeup off. She blushed, recalling him insisting on showering with her to help her, but he also helped himself by taking her in the shower.

 

“Khushi, we have a lot of lost time to make up for.” That was his excuse, when she tried to get out of his hold when he had her pressed against the wall.

 

How can one disagree with that?

 

She lifted up her mangalsutra, softly placing it on his lips. He stirred, moving his head back further dipping into his pillow. She covered her mouth, to prevent herself from laughing and shifted closer to him, placing it again. This time his eyebrows furrowed, as he squinted his eyes, slightly opening them, then closed them quickly.

 

“Khushi, what are you doing?” He grunted, pulling her in his arms.

 

“I can’t sleep. Please wake up now, it’s seven o’clock.”

 

“One more hour, please.  Just try closing your eyes, come here.” He wrapped his leg over her, then rubbed her back.

 

“Baby, I am wide awake. And you know, I can’t easily sleep in a new place. Okay you can sleep, I will unpack few of my things. Anjali had mentioned to come down at nine o’clock.”

 

He nodded, unable to open his eyes. She kissed his cheek, getting out of his hold, and off the bed.

 

She glanced around the room, which was a mess with flowers scattered everywhere, along with their clothing.  

 

She spent the next few minutes quietly tidying up the room to save herself from embarrassment in case anyone decided to come in here. Especially when she found her destroyed thong near the rug.

 

“Why does he always rip my nice underwear? And these were expensive which I purchased especially for our suhaag raat.”  She murmured under her breath, walking inside the closet with their clothes.

 

A smile spread across her face, seeing the space he cleared for her on one side of the closet. Even in the closet, he divided the space equally.

 

The next hour she spent unpacking in the closet, then took a shower since she had to start the task of putting on a saree by herself for the first time.

 

How she wished her Amma was here…

 

She thought, standing in front of the mirror in her petticoat and blouse, unraveling the red georgette saree with navy blue stones and velvet thick border. She completed step one, tucking in the saree around her once, which was relatively easy.

 

But then what? Those damn pleats, she frowned ready to scream, but stopped hearing his husky laughter behind her.

 

She turned to find her husband, freshly showered, dressed in a white shirt and khaki chinos approaching her.

 

“This is not funny.” She whined, turning around, putting her focus back on the saree.

 

“I can’t believe Khushi Kumari…”  He paused stopping himself from using her maiden name. “So, there is something that Khushi Singh Raizada can’t do perfectly. This should be the headline in the news today. Should I call the press? Perhaps you can write the press release… ouch, this is considered domestic abuse.” He yelled, as she continued to punch both of his arms several times.

 

“Well that’s what you deserve for making fun of me. And, wearing this is not easy, I don’t know how all of these women make it look simple.”

 

“Why don’t you wear those things you usually wear? You don’t have to wear a saree, you know that right? Though you do look rather sexy in them, and this is red, my favorite color on you.” He winked, taking the pallu from her hold and draped it over her shoulder.

 

“But it’s my first day as the Raizada Bahu, so I need to wear a saree. Do you know what Amma would do if I didn’t wear one? Arnav…” She whined, as he stood there with his hand over his mouth.

 

“How about I help you? If we can crack million dollar deals, we can figure out how to wrap this around you. What’s the next step?”

 

She took a deep breath and smiled, as he wrapped his arms around her waist. Her waist tightened, feeling him caress it with his fingers.

 

“Baby, you do realize that the goal is for me to get dressed?” She whispered, placing her hand on his cheek feeling his stubble.  

 

“Yes. I. Do.” He paused after each word, placing kisses around her neck.”But before you get dressed, I would like to properly wish my wife a very good morning.”

 

“Only a kiss.”

 

He did just that with a kiss that made her toes curl up. His fingers traced her lips, sending shivers down to her spine.  

 

“Only a kiss?” His low, husky voice making her heart beat out of her chest.

 

“Hmm…”  

 

He raised an eyebrow in amusement, as she shook her head, but clearly she was saying yes.

 

“So what is it, yes or no?”  

 

“Um… woh…”  She stuttered, then closed her eyes, hearing a loud knock on the door.

 

“And it begins…”  

 

She shoved him, gathering her saree, then gestured towards the door as she went inside the closet. She had hoped it would be Anjali or Payal, but it was Om Prakash telling Arnav that food will be served in twenty minutes.

 

She panicked with only having such little time left, pacing inside the closet. Khushi hurried outside bumping into Arnav, after hearing the door close.

 

“Hai Devi Maiya, what am I going to do now?” She dropped the saree on the floor, thinking through what her mother had taught so many times. Only if she had practiced more, like her mother had suggested.

 

“Sweetheart, take a deep breath and calm down. Should I call Di for you?” She shook her head, then took a deep breath to relax.

 

“No, I think I can do it. Can you just help me with the pins, please?”

 

He nodded, placing a kiss on her forehead, then took a few steps to give her space.  

 

Khushi, recalled the times when her mother had helped, as she went through each of the steps with Arnav’s help. She gazed down, at the mighty ASR kneeling down on the floor, intently aligning the pleats together.  

 

“Now that looks perfect!” He stood up, and smiled, looking her over proudly at what they accomplished together.

 

“Yes, thanks to you. One last pin.”  She motioned him to pin the pallu to the back of her blouse.

 

“Us… we did this together.”  

 

A few minutes later, Khushi glanced at herself in the mirror unable to believe how the saree looked on her. She smiled, looking at the sindoor and mangalsutra completing her look as a new bride. The sindoor, that Arnav again filled the parting in her hair this morning.  Her possessive husband marking what belongs to him, she mused.

 

Now only if her Amma could see her in the saree she had selected for her. She would be proud of her.

 

“What are you thinking about?”  

 

She came out of her thoughts, feeling his arms around her waist, as he rested his face on her shoulder. Their eyes meeting in the mirror, and they smiled.

 

“Amma.”  She paused, after taking her mother’s name on her lips, feeling her throat dry. She shook it away, placing her hands over his, and continued.  “She would be so happy, seeing me dressed in this saree… knowing that I did it myself, well kind of.” She giggled, then turned to face him, kissing him to express her gratitude for having him by her side.

 

He watched her carefully, and knew how much she must be missing her parents after being with them the past few weeks.

 

A few moments later, she sat in front of the vanity, putting on her jewelry, when she heard her mother’s voice.  

 

“Hello Bitwa!  Is everything okay?”

 

She found Arnav walking towards her with his phone in his hand, as he facetimed with her mother.

 

“Hi Auntie. Everything is fine, woh Khushi wanted to show you something.  Hold on, let me give her the phone.”

 

She smiled widely, and mouthed “Thank you”, before taking the phone in her hand.   

 

How did she forget she had gifted both her parents an iPhone to make it easier to see them whenever she wanted.

 

She spent a few minutes talking to her parents. Her mother getting a glance to see her in the saree, as she took the credit of putting it on herself. Arnav winked at her in approval watching her from the corner. Both of her parents happily spoke to her, and looked forward to seeing her tonight.

 

“You are the best husband ever! I love you so much.”  

 

He smiled, taking his phone from her hand, sliding it inside his pocket. He grasped her hand, pulling her in his arms, making them both burst into laughter as he said.

 

“I know.”

 

*****

 

The family watched on fondly, as Arnav and Khushi approached them in the living room. Happiness evident within the newlyweds, as they took blessings from Nani.  

 

“Aren’t we eating?” Arnav asked, taking a seat next to Aakash.

 

“Why Bhai? Did you work up an appetite? We ate pretty late, and I am still full from the delicious food from your wedding.”

 

Arnav glared at Aakash, kicking his leg, as the others smirked inwardly.

 

“Chote, we are eating in a few minutes, but I wanted to talk to everyone about today’s rituals. Since you and Khushi Bitiya are leaving for your honeymoon tomorrow night, we have to do everything before you leave. The Mooh Dikhai, Pag Phera…”

 

“Wait! There are more rituals? I thought the only thing left was the reception tonight.”

 

“Wrong little brother. Khushi’s Mooh Dikhai is this afternoon. Everyone will be coming over around lunch time to see her.”  

 

Arnav shook his head, looking at his sister incredulously.

 

“But didn’t they meet her yesterday, and they will meet her tonight. I really don’t understand these rituals, but do what you need to I guess. The most important ritual for me is completed.”

 

Khushi stared at him with her mouth widened, shocked, her cheeks blushing at his insinuation, as he stared at her.  

 

The younger generation smirked, while the elders continued to discuss the upcoming rituals, making their way to the dining room.

 

“Why are you looking at me like that? I was referring to the wedding last night.”

 

“Right Bhai… we believe you. Kyun NK?”

 

“Whatever, I am going to eat. Come on, Khushi, let these people think what they want to.”

 

Khushi wanted to run into her room, hearing the snickering coming from everyone.  ut she held her head up high, and walked ahead with him for breakfast. There was so much to do today, that it was best to ignore everything around her.

 

And that is exactly what she did throughout breakfast, and getting ready for the Mooh Dikhai. Between the three girls, even Mami, teasing her and questioning her about the Suhaag Raat.

 

What is wrong with these people wanting to know such details?

 

She couldn’t understand the fascination with others wanting to know things that should remain private. And on top of that, her husband didn’t help the cause with his offhand remarks.

 

Arnav halted at the sliding doors, as he made his way inside his room from the poolside to find his wife looking stunning for the upcoming ritual. She was dressed in heavy sheer net and satin, pink lehenga with darker pink multiple embroidered borders. He stared at her, as she covered her head with dupatta.  

 

He had to give it to her, for going along with whatever his family requested.  During breakfast, he knew she was overwhelmed with what Nani was asking of her for this afternoon’s ritual, along with the reception. But not once did she hesitate happily agreeing.

 

“Hi my beautiful wife!”  

 

She stood up, but he hadn’t fail to notice her smile had disappeared.

 

“Is this okay? Do you think I have enough jewelry on? I am not sure about all of this.”

 

“Hey… you look gorgeous. There is nothing for you to be concerned about.  Plus no one will dare say anything to my wife, and if they do I will take care of them.”

 

She shook her head, giving him a sheepish grin, as he held her hands, kissing her forehead.

 

“Oh right, how can I forget, I am ASR’s wife. I just want this all to be over, soon!”

 

“And it will be, just think about tomorrow night when we will be on the jet.  Joining the mile high club.” He winked, curving his lip.

 

“Really… is that all you think about? At least one of us is excited, because I am not. Why should I be, when I have no clue where I am going. I don’t even know what to pack or what you have packed for me. All of this is stressful, but what I think doesn’t matter. You have your way.”

 

She pulled her hands away, taking a few steps but stopped without turning hearing him call her from behind.

 

“Khushi…”

 

“It’s okay Arnav, I need to go out right now.”

 

With that she left the room, leaving him scratching his head at her mood swings. He knew she was irritated, with everything going on, not to mention barely sleeping last night. It looked like his Bridezilla was back!

 

The next couple of  hours, Khushi sat patiently with a smile on her face, as the women arrived. They all took turns welcoming her, along with wishing her happiness for her married life, handing her presents. They complimented the family about her looks, and how fortunate they were to find a perfect match for Arnav.  

 

While she understood the importance of the ritual, there were times some of the comments made her uncomfortable. The skin color compared to other brides, why was that even a topic of discussion? Even the status of her family was mentioned by someone, but her new family stood by her, diverting those topics by clever retorts made by Anjali and Nani, even Mami politely dismissed them.

 

But what she would cherish from her Mooh Dikhai, were the warm and heartfelt wishes from the women of her new family.  

 

Once the ceremony was over, everyone decided to rest for a couple of hours before they needed to get ready for the reception and Khushi couldn’t be happier. With barely any sleep, and busy day so far, the lack of sleep was catching up with her. And she wasn’t in the socializing mood.

 

When she finally walked inside her room, after talking to Anjali, she smiled, watching Arnav sleeping. All she wanted was to go into his arms.

 

She quickly changed into her kurta, at last feeling comfortable, then crawled inside the bed, wrapping her arms across his chest. Feeling her presence, he smiled, wrapping his arms and legs around her, pulling her closer to him.  

 

“Bora Bora.”  He whispered, kissing the top of her head.

 

She raised her head, propping herself on her elbow to stare at him.

 

“What? You wanted to know, and now you do, happy?  Now, come on get some rest, it’s going to be another long night.”

 

“Very happy!” She squealed, kissing him all over his face, before settling back in his arms and closing her eyes.

 

She giggled, hearing him mutter under his breath.

 

“Unbelievable, couldn’t let me keep this a secret.”

 

But knowing the destination, somehow helped her get out her Bridezilla mood, not to mention a couple of hours of rest. It gave her the energy to face the reception with a bright smile.

 

The couple arrived at The Oberoi, minutes before their introduction. Arnav in his element, dressed in a Tom Ford black tuxedo, with a bow tie and white shirt. Khushi dressed elegantly in a classic red fully embroidered silk saree, her unique multi colored blouse whose sleeves came below her elbow.

 

As they stood outside the door to make their entrance, Khushi anxiously glanced at the crowd gathered in the ballroom. The five hundred exclusive guests, which included their family and friends who had attended their intimate wedding. But today there were also VIPs from the business, political and social world who Arnav worked closely with.

 

Her nerves kicked in, seeing the crowd dressed in their finest to meet them.  The prospect of meeting them as Arnav Singh Raizada’s wife, had her on edge.  

 

What would they think of her, his employee now turned wife?

 

She knew better than to think of it that way, but how could she not?

 

He looked at his wife, as she clasped onto his arm tightly. There was no doubt in his mind what she was thinking. As much as he wanted to shelter Khushi, away from this world, he couldn’t. He wanted to introduce Khushi as his wife, and knew they would all respect and admire the woman he chose to marry.

 

“Sweetheart, relax, they are all regular people like us.”

 

“That’s easy for you to say, you know them. What will they think of me?”

 

“They are going to think what a lucky man I am having a beautiful woman on my arm. And once they get to know you, then they will know you are a full package… beauty and brains.  Khushi, do you know more than half of the women in there are totally materialistic, and couldn’t hold a conversation unless its about the latest fashion trend. But you, my love, could hold your own with just about any person in that room, including fashion trends. So Mrs. Raizada, it’s them that should be nervous not you.”

 

He kissed the palm of her hand, and taking his advice, she took a deep breath, right before they were introduced.

 

“And now let’s welcome for the first time, the newly married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Arnav and Khushi Singh Raizada… everyone give them a round of applause.”

 

The new power couple taking over the business world, the guests had been hearing about, walked in confidently, smiling, waving to the crowd that had gathered. Everyone curious about the woman that captured the ASR’s heart and helping him take AR to further heights in the International arena, were finally getting a glimpse of her tonight.  

 

Throughout the reception, they were inundated with everyone approaching to meet and speak with them. Khushi found herself adapting quite well with the different personalities leaving Arnav in awe.

 

By  the end of night, after the wonderful speeches from a few family and friends, dancing, eating and meeting everyone, their reception was a successful and memorable affair. They both were happy for it to be over, looking forward to leaving for their honeymoon in twenty-four hours.  

 

The next morning, Khushi successfully made her first meal for the family. While most of them had eaten her cooking in the States, the others were impressed.  

 

As Arnav ate, he realized how accustomed he had gotten to her cooking, and missed it not being with her for a few weeks. He enjoyed it, whispering a thank you in her ear, as she sat next to him.

 

Khushi smiled looking around the table, satisfied, another ritual was complete.

 

Per tradition the bride’s brother would pick her up for the pag phera, but instead Khushi’s father was going to pick her up since she did not have a brother.

 

But to her surprise, it was someone else at the door that arrived to take her home.

 

“What? I am your bhaiya, right?”

 

She nodded, feeling her throat tightening, as Aakash stood at the front door, declaring he was here to pick up his sister.

 

“Please don’t make my wife cry, she has already cried enough. Now take her there safely.”

 

He put his hand around her shoulder, as she smiled through her tears, which he wiped away.

 

“Those are happy tears seeing her handsome brother, which are vanishing away as we speak, right terminator?”

 

“Yes Bhaiya, thank you!” She hugged her brother, a man she respected for always treating her as family, but being by her side today, he proved it yet again that she was indeed his sister.

 

Her family happily welcomed her home with Khushi engulfing her parents in a hug. Their happiness had returned, even though it was for a few hours, they intended to make most of it.  

 

“Thank you Aakash Bitwa for bringing Khushi. Please come in and sit down.  Garima, bring some drinks and snacks.”  

 

“Uncle, I am fine, and actually I need to head to the office for a meeting. I just wanted to bring Behena home, now that she is delivered safe and sound. I will head out.”

 

After Aakash left for the office, Garima and Shashi, stared at their daughter talking to her Bua. Their Khushi, in a matter of a day, looked different. Her saree, mangalsutra that her hands kept touching, the sindoor in her hair, looking every bit like a married woman.

 

“Now I don’t have to worry anymore, my sona baccha is finally happy. Look at her, that smile has not left her face.”

 

“Our Titaliya is indeed very happy now.  At least you won’t be worried when she is in New York with Arnav by her side.”

 

“Are you both going to keep staring at me?” Khushi walked up to her parents, standing between and wrapped her arms around them.

 

“I still can’t believe my daughter is actually wearing a saree. It looks perfect on you, are you sure Anjali or Payal didn’t help you?”

 

“Haww, no they didn’t help me. Amma, you should be praising me for my saree wearing skills, not doubting me.”

 

“Pagli…”  She smacked her arm lightly, and smiled. “When is Arnav Bitwa coming? I made both your favorite dishes for lunch.”

 

“He should be here shortly, till then feed me something… quick, I am hungry. I didn’t eat much earlier, since I was busy cooking.” She pouted.

 

They laughed at her antics knowing some things will never change with their Khushi. She will always be their little girl, so what if she was married.

 


 

 

 

 


 

 

The final part to The Shaadi Special for Stripped will be posted next Friday, December 29th. Hope to see you here then one last time.

 

Before I sign off, wishing all of you a Happy, joyous, festive Holiday with your loved ones! 

 

wishing you and yours a merry

 

 

Part 6 – The Shaadi

 

“One more hour.”

 

She whispered, holding the phone close to her chest, as she glanced outside the window from the presidential suite at the Oberoi.  

 

The Oberoi, Gurgaon, was the venue they had selected for their Shaadi and for the Reception tomorrow evening. The resort referred to itself as “an island of green and blue”, which was a precise description. A vast urban modern sanctuary, surrounded by vibrant green walls and reflection pools spread throughout the property.

 

“Your soon to be husband is only a few minutes away with the Baraat in tow. I hope my soon to be wife is ready!”

 

She smiled, looking at the text that just arrived.

 

“She has been ready for an hour now, waiting to see her soon to be husband. Less than an hour left till I see my prince at midnight.”

 

Khushi glanced at her reflection in the mirror, unable to believe that it was her.  She looked every bit a bride, from her traditional kundan jewelry down to her gold and diamond studded strappy heeled Jimmy Choos. The designer lehenga, custom made to fit her like a glove, hugged her hips, flaring out at the bottom.  The red cascading up to lighter hues of pink silk, embellished with stones, zari, and pearls with a green thick border. Every inch detailed to perfection, not only on the lehenga but also the short choli with an open back and multi layered dupattas.

 

She had yet to see such a stylish piece on another bride, and what made this entire ensemble special was the fact that it was from Arnav. During her wedding shopping, his designer friend who also was an Wharton alumni, showed her this piece that Arnav had expressed interest in when he was in Delhi. While she had the option to choose any lehenga, but she had fallen in love with this immediately knowing this was his choice.

 

Now, she couldn’t wait for him to see her.

 

*
*
*
*
*

 

“Forty-five more minutes.”

 

He whispered, looking at his new watch that shimmered in the dark, as the car pulled up to the resort. His family had already gathered outside, singing and dancing as part of the Baraat.  

 

The anticipation of seeing her, the wedding itself, had him on edge today. And seeing the craziness outside waiting for him, he would rather sit inside the Bentley until it was time for the ceremony.  

 

While his family and Khushi wanted him to ride in on a horse, he declined in true ASR form and made his own arrangements to arrive here.  

 

Arnav Singh Raizada on a horse, that too wearing a cream colored Sherwani embroidered with Lucknowi work, paired with a Jamawar shawl, was not going to happen. While he wasn’t a fan of hanging the shawl on his shoulder, he did it to make her happy. She had specifically selected this for him, and after what happened when he first refused to wear a kurta for the Mehendi, he decided it was best to go along rather than against it.

 

And now, he couldn’t wait for her to see him.

 

He took a deep breath, composing himself, as Aakash opened the door for him.

 

“So Bhai, are you ready to get shackled down, losing the eligible bachelor title? After tomorrow’s press release, many hearts are going to break…”

 

“You better not let your Behena hear you say that, otherwise she might terminate your existence. I just want to get this wedding over with, so I can go off on my honeymoon with my wife. Have fun in my absence, little brother.”  He laughed, squeezing Aakash’s shoulder.

 

Anjali walked towards them holding an excited Adi, who was up way past his bedtime. He looked around in glee, as everyone danced with the music blaring around them.

 

“Let’s go you two, we need to go inside now to get ready for the ceremony. There isn’t much time till midnight.”

 

Without waiting for them, Arnav took Aditya out of Anjali’s hands and started walking ahead.

 

“Most men want to run away on their wedding day, but Bhai is running towards his wedding.”

 

Anjali smacked his arm, and they both started laughing and dancing following Arnav.

 

And if they weren’t mistaken, their brother had danced a few steps with Adi as he joined the others.

 

“It’s so nice to see him so happy, I can’t believe my Chote is getting married.”

 

*

*

*

*

*

 

“Where are these girls? We only have thirty minutes.”  

 

Khushi paced around in the suite, and upon hearing the door open, she slowly walked towards them holding up her heavy lehenga that was weighing her down.

 

“Khushi, you look so pretty.” Lavanya exclaimed, admiring her.

 

“Why are you guys late? There isn’t much time left, we need to go down now…”

 

Anjali shook her head, and put her hand on Khushi’s shoulder.  

 

“Khushi relax, you are not going to be late, no one is going to allow that to happen. You will see him exactly at midnight, promise our dear Rajkumari.”

 

Khushi smiled at her friend, and relaxed, when she hugged her.

 

“Thank you. All three of you look so beautiful.” She said, looking at the women dressed in their finest sarees and jewelry.

 

“You are the most beautiful bride I have ever seen! Wait till Arnav Bhai sees you, and you see him.”  Payal said softly, engulfing her in a hug.  

 

As they made their way down the elevator walking towards the Grand Ballroom, she smiled as they kept her distracted filling her in from the Haldi to Arnav dancing outside with the Baraat right before they came upstairs.  

 

But her heart could only think of one thing… Arnav.

 

She entered the Ballroom from the back entrance, where everyone from the bride’s side waited to greet the baraat.  Her mother came to help her, while the other three ladies went back outside to join the Baraat.

 

Shashi and Garima smiled at their daughter, who resembled a princess, decked up as a bride. The moment they had dreamt of since she was born, was finally here. They wrapped their arm around her from each side, hugging her before the ceremony started.  

 

Khushi impatiently stood behind everyone, as they blocked her from being seen with the doors opening to the ballroom.

 

“Ten more minutes.”

 

Arnav thought to himself, glancing again at his watch, as he stood to the side waiting for the doors to open. Today was a day about patience and waiting, but now he was beyond that, wanting to barge inside to see her.     

 

He sighed, as the doors opened, ready to march in to find the woman he was eager to see. But Anjali wrapped her hand around his arm, slowing him down.

 

“Arrey, slowly, first Khushi’s mother has to take your aarti.”  She softly said to him, and smiled.

 

Garima smiled at Arnav as she did his aarti, then applied a small tilak on his forehead. After she showered him with flowers, she welcomed them all inside the venue. Both families greeted each other, as happiness and laughter flowed in the air.  

 

Moments later, the countdown began to ring in the New Year, but for two people the significance of the countdown was slightly different.

 

Arnav closed his eyes, standing in place, per instructions thrown at him by his family. His heart starting to pick up its pace, but he slightly relaxed, taking in a familiar scent approaching him.

 

Khushi closed her eyes, taking slow steps towards him with her mother leading the way. She fidgeted with her pallu, but smiled feeling his presence as she came closer to him. She stopped, feeling her mother squeeze her shoulder.

 

They now stood in front of each other, with their eyes closed desperately wanting to open them. Everyone around them, counting down to the last ten seconds, as they counted along softly.

 

“Ten, nine, eight, seven, six…”

 

“Khushi, give me your hand…”

 

He whispered, seeking out for her hand and finding them directly ahead of him. She squeezed his hand tighter in acknowledgement, as they counted the final five seconds.

 

“Five, four, three, two, one!”

 

They opened their eyes, adjusting their blurred vision and smiled brightly at each other, as their heart raced rapidly.

 

“Happy New Year!” They all shouted, the noisemakers blasting, claps resonating around them.

 

He took her hand closer to his, softly kissing her palm on top of the jewelry that adorned it before letting go of her hand.  

 

As she stepped back, he took in her appearance. His hand automatically covered his mouth, swallowing the lump in his throat. His heart skipped a beat, as he held his breath. Was that his Khushi? She looked so different, majestic, as she stood gracefully in front of him. Arnav Singh Raizada was blown away by the stunning beauty in front of him.

 

She shook her head slowly, seeing his eyes filled with fresh tears, which reflected hers. He nodded, pushing back the tears, as did she.

 

Her Arnav stood in front of her, looking elegant just as she had imagined he would. When she selected his attire for their shaadi, she didn’t expect him to go through with it but he did. She smiled at the shawl draped over his shoulder, then gazed up at him, awestruck at the handsome man who was about to become her husband.

 

“Should we start the Varmala ritual?”   

 

They forced their gaze away, hearing Nani, to see everyone around them getting ready.  

 

She glanced up at him, feeling her cheeks burning at the intensity of his gaze fixed on her. She looked away blushing, taking the garland being handed to her by Payal.  

 

He curved his lips, catching her cheeks change color. Just as he was about to lean his head down, he felt himself being lifted in the air by NK and Aman. And seeing her frowning, he laughed. It was nice to see she was also impatient.  

 

“I could easily walk away, then see what ASR does to you both if you don’t put him down.”  

 

She raised her eyebrow at the two men holding him up, who had no intention of putting him down. Just as she was about to turn away, she gasped when Aakash came over raising her up and perched her on his shoulder.

 

“Why worry when your Bhaiya is here? Go for it Behena!”  

 

Aakash moved her closer, as Arnav bowed his head down. She excitedly placed the garland around his neck, and winked at him, hearing the applause.

 

He leaned down taking the garland from Shyam’s hands, and smiled at Khushi before placing it slowly around her neck being careful not to ruin anything.  

 

“I love you.” He mouthed, making her heart swell, before they both were placed on the ground.

 

She steadied herself with Payal straightening the garland around her neck. She glanced in his direction, as Aakash assisted him, and Anjali took his shawl off.  

 

They started making their way to the end of the Ballroom where an opulent mandap, covered with an array of flowers comprising mostly of roses and orchids, was set up on the stage.

 

Sensing her careful steps, holding the side of her lehenga, he grasped her hand in his. She smiled as he helped her along the way, making her sit down first. Only sitting down once she was comfortable.

 

Her eyes widened when he leaned in close to her, speaking softly in her ear.

“I hope you hired a pandit that chants fast, I want this done in less than an hour.”

 

She shook her head and motioned him to fold his hands. But she smiled inwardly when he frowned at her following her instructions.  

 

The pandit recited time old chants that have been around for thousands of years to carry out their Shaadi.

 

When it was time for the Kanyadan, Khushi’s father came up behind them placing her hand in Arnav’s, signifying he was handing over his daughter. She looked on emotionally, leaning her head on her father’s arms. Knowing the importance of this ritual, Arnav took his other hand, placing it over his. He nodded to her father, silently promising to always take care of Khushi.

 

A moment later, the pandit lit the fire, instructing Khushi to place her hand on top of Arnav’s. They listened attentively, following each step explained to them.  Both becoming serious about the rituals and vows that will declare them husband and wife.

 

Khushi glanced at Arnav periodically, surprised seeing him engrossed in the rituals. Her heart warmed when he smiled at her with their hands joined together.

 

Anjali excitedly came over for the Gath Bandhan. She placed one end of the joda securely on his shoulder, then tied the knot to the end of her pallav. With teary eyes, she wrapped both of her arms around them.

 

“I tied your Gath Bandhan so tight, that no one will ever come in the way to pull it apart. Khush raho.”  

 

She kissed them both, then placed Khushi’s hand in his, before going back to stand with her husband, who was cradling a sleepy Adi in his arms. Both smiled at each other, recalling their own wedding.

 

Arnav stood up, then assisted Khushi, as they prepared themselves to be legally married by taking their Saat Phere (Seven Vows). With each phera (circle) around the agni (fire), both took each vow seriously in front of their family, friends, God but most importantly to each other.

 

Their entwined hands uniting them as one, as Arnav took the lead circling around the first three times reciting their vows. With Khushi leading the remaining pheras. Their family and friends showered them with flowers, praying and blessing the jodi with a lifetime of happiness together.

 

Before taking the last phera, they stared at each other. After this vow, they will finally be one. She smiled up at him, before proceeding to take a step forward as he recited the final vow before her.  

 

“We are one, as husband and wife. You are mine, and I am yours forever. I promise to love you and be faithful, not just as my wife, but as my friend.”

 

“In front of God and our loved ones, now I am your wife. I promise to trust you to do the right thing for us, our love, and our life. We will love, honor and cherish each other hamesha.”

 

As they completed the last phera, Khushi felt her emotions surfacing when they stopped, taking their seats once again. She fixed her eyes on the agni burning before her, pushing back the overwhelming tears that threatened to fall.

 

Tears of happiness.

 

He could see the myriad of emotions going through her, and all he wanted was to take her in his arms which were craving to hold her now the ritual that held the most significance in declaring them husband and wife was complete.  

 

But hearing the pandit, he turned his attention back to him, who handed him the mangalsutra with instructions to place it around her neck.

 

He grinned, taking the long double strand, black beaded necklace with an diamond pendant from him. At last he was going to be able to touch her.

 

He leaned towards her slowly placing it around her neck. She shivered, closing her eyes, feeling his fingers slide across her neck as he clasped the sides of the mangalsutra together. He smiled, hearing a soft moan escape her lips, when his thumb circled the nape of her neck.

 

Both took in the closeness of being with each other. She shook her head slowly at his mischievous gaze when his fingers continued to linger on her neck after he finished. She knew this wasn’t the right place or time to feel the sensations he was awakening, and decided it was time to end it, before her cheeks matched her lehenga.

 

“We don’t have all night, Mr. Raizada.” She murmured, under her breath in hopes he would stop the tortuous touch he was leaving.

 

He sighed in defeat, pulling away, amused at her response.  

 

He glanced at the little antique gold pot being held towards him. Taking a pinch of sindoor, he raised his hand towards her forehead.  

 

Feeling his touch, she closed her eyes, her breathing quickening as he gently lifted the Maang tikka, moving it to the side.

 

He applied a streak of sindoor in the parting of her hair as a little trickled down on her nose. He couldn’t stop staring at the beautiful woman, who he marked as his forever.

 

A smile spread across his face, when she opened her eyes to meet his. Her eyes widening, as he leaned in closer, and whispered in her ear.

 

“Now you are officially mine, Mrs. Khushi Singh Raizada.” He kissed the top of her forehead, before pulling away hearing the pandit.

 

“Yeh vivaah sampann hua.”

 

And now they were married.

 

Those four words declared by the pandit, making it reality. Her hazels shimmered, his moltens glinted with a promise to each other of a lifetime of love and happiness as husband and wife.

 

The night continued as they sought blessings from their elders, and received wishes from their family and friends. Both sharing their special moment with everyone as they attempted to eat, while photos were taken that will serve as memories of their special day.

 

As the night came to an end, Khushi’s heart ached, seeing her parents emotional state at the time of Bidai. A moment that is inevitable for a daughter after her Shaadi, but never easy for any parent, especially for their beloved only child.

 

Shashi folded his hands for the first time in his life, as he looked up at his son in law with a heavy heart.

 

“Arnav bitwa, my Khushi is my life… this father’s only wish in life is to see her happy. Please…”

 

Arnav shook his head, sucking a painful breath, putting his hand over his. Unable to see the anguish in her father’s eyes, Arnav reassured him softly.

 

“Uncle, I promise to always keep our life happy, and be by her side forever.”

 

Shashi nodded with a small smile, placing his hand on Arnav’s shoulder, and pulled him in an embrace.

 

“I know you will Bitwa.” He whispered.

 

Khushi’s eyes filled with tears, watching Arnav and her father. As tears streamed down her cheeks, wrapping her arms around her fragile mother.  Both staying still, holding onto one another as they sobbed. An emotional Nani came over, putting her hand on Garima’s shoulder. She folding her hands together towards Nani.

 

“Garimaji, Khushi bitiya is coming to our family as our daughter. We promise to take care of her just the way you have.”

 

She nodded, taking a few emotional steps towards her daughter and husband, as they embraced each other one last time.

 

Arnav’s tender gaze was fixed on them as they said goodbye. He looked away, pushing back his emotions, unable to see the tears in Khushi’s. He knew how much they meant to each other, and made a promise to himself to always make sure she would have them by her side whenever she needed them.

 

Arnav helped Khushi into the backseat after she threw her parents a flying kiss, and waved goodbye. After he was seated, he nodded for Bala to drive off.  But she continued to look back, waving with tears flowing until they were out of her sight.


The thought that she wasn’t part of them anymore, or the fact her home where she grew up was no longer hers, sent a crushing pain in her heart.

 

She continued to weep, looking up at Arnav. He shook his head, wiping her tears away with his handkerchief and pulled her into his arms.

 

“Shhh… sweetheart…” He chanted, wrapping one arm around her, while rubbing her back with the other. She kept her face buried in his chest, moving closer to him trying to compose herself.

 

“Whoever made this ritual was one cruel bastard…”

 

He let out a deep, husky laugh, making her smile, feeling his body vibrate against hers. She peeked up at Bala, who also smiled hearing her comment in the front seat.

 

“Which is why you don’t need to follow it. Khushi, they will always be your parents, and you their daughter. No ritual will change that. And, I will never stop you from seeing them, whenever you want, whether it be in Delhi or New York. They will always be a part of our life. Theek hai? Now come on, let’s fix this beautiful face before we get home. You know how much I hate to see you crying, and today you have cried enough for a lifetime.”  He furrowed his eyebrow, intently cleaning the streaks left by the tears off of her face.

 

She smiled up at him, feeling the warmth of his touch. She couldn’t resist raising her hand and caressed his cheeks. Something she had been longing to do all night. He took her hand, placing a few kisses on her hand down to her wrist. He didn’t hold back placing a kiss on her lips.

 

She blushed, pulling away a moment later, gesturing towards the front seat.  He shrugged his shoulders, pulling her back in his arms, where she snuggled for the rest of the ride.

 

After the car pulled into the driveway, Arnav helped Khushi step out of the car. She glanced up at the mansion in front of her, her husband’s home and now hers as well. Her sasural, as her Amma would say.

 

How will she adjust to this new lifestyle as Arnav Singh Raizada’s wife?  

 

 


 

 

 


 

 

Part 7 will be posted next Friday, December 22nd, see you then!

Part 5 – The Sangeet

 

Devyani Singh Raizada had seen it all in her long life. Ups and many painful downs. She had lost her husband to cancer, her daughter and son in law in a car accident, and then had almost lost her two grandchildren. But she never gave up faith for her family, continuing to live and fight for them. She was aware life wasn’t perfect, therefore she had not expected it from her family. All she ever wanted was happiness for her children and grandchildren.  

 

But she had been worried for one person, who held a special place in her heart, her grandson, Arnav.  Growing up, he had kept to himself, then put all his energy and time into building AR. But she knew that wasn’t enough to get through life.

 

She smiled, thinking about their many arguments for him to settle down after seeing his pictures in the newspaper with different women. The biggest one was when he announced he was moving out of Shantivan. He was insistent upon living on his own in the Penthouse at AR Headquarters, downright refusing to get married. There was nothing that anyone could say or do to get him to change his mind. Seeing him flourishing with AR and cognizant of his aspiration to reach greater heights, she had decided to support him.  

 

Now looking back, it had been the right thing to do. Since he found happiness on his own, his Khushi. A young woman she had come to admire, not only for giving her her grandson back but also for her professional accomplishments. To Devyani, Khushi had the right balance between modern and traditional, which made her compatible with Arnav. She was confident the two would always keep the other happy.  

 

She stood outside his bedroom to find him working on his laptop. She sighed, realizing some things never change. Here he was the day before his shaadi… working.  

 

Does he ever stop?

 

“Chote, can I come in?”

 

Arnav glanced up from his screen to find his Nani standing at his doorway. He instantly stood up, and helped her inside.

 

“Why didn’t you have someone call me? I would have come to you. Please sit down.”  

 

She slowly sat down on the chaise, signaling him to sit beside her.

 

“Why are you still working? You are getting married tomorrow, don’t you think you should sit back and enjoy the celebrations. This only happens once in your life, Chote.”  She caressed his cheek, admiring what a remarkable man he had become.   

 

“I know, Nani, there were a couple of things that I needed to finish this morning then you will be happy to know your favorite grandson plans to not work for the next ten days.”  

 

They both laughed.

 

“Sach? Now that is a miracle. One I will believe when I see it. But yes, this Nani is extremely happy to see her grandson finally take some deserved time off.”

 

“For once, I am looking forward to it. What’s that, Angel?”

 

Her heart swelled up at the endearment he had given her a few months after they came to Delhi to live with her. He barely said a few words during those months, only whispering to Anjali. But one day during dinner he had called her Angel, since she made his favorite dinner.

 

She smiled, looking down the antique decorated jewelry box, not knowing if he would remember, and handed it to him.

 

He raised his eyebrow, curiously opening the box. But seeing the content inside, he swallowed the lump that was forming in his throat.

 

“Do you remember these payals?”

 

He simply nodded, losing his voice, feeling a piercing ache in his heart.  

 

“I think you were nine years old, when you came over during summer vacation with Ananya. I still remember that day… you sat next to her fascinated, while she was picking out jewelry. And when you saw these, you insisted she buy them for your wife. You would not give up until she agreed.” She giggled, remembering him pulling her pallu, and constantly nudging her arm.

 

He took a deep breath, caressing his fingers on the exquisite intricate gold payals embellished with diamonds, rubies, and pearls.

 

“Then she started laughing and teasing me about getting me married right away. I got mad, stomping away to go play with Di and Aakash… but how did you get these?”

 

“Ananya was so happy that day thinking about you getting married. That’s what she talked about the entire day, your wedding, what kind of girl you would find, everything. But since the clasp was loose, the jeweler took them back to get it replaced. She was going to take them the next time she visited. Who knew that would be the… last…”  

 

She trembled as the tears streamed down her face. She held onto his hand. Even after all these years, the pain never lessened when she thought about her daughter. But she shook her head, stopping the tears. Ananya would not want them to be sad today, she would want everyone celebrating her Chote’s shaadi.  

 

She saw through the anguish in his eyes, and it broke her heart.

 

“Nani… do you think Ma would have approved of Khushi?”  He whispered, looking directly into his Nani’s eyes, searching for the approval that was important to him.

 

“I know she would have been extremely happy to welcome Khushi not as her daughter in law but her daughter. That’s how special our Khushi is. And take this as a sign that your Ma is with you both. How else could you explain this is the only piece of her jewelry left with us? Now make sure you give these to Khushi Bitiya.”

 

“Thank you, Nani… for everything that you have ever done for me.  You truly are my Angel.”

 

She smiled, wrapping her arms around him, content her Chote had finally found his happiness.

 

After spending the next couple of hours closing out loose ends and assigning the outstanding work for Aakash to oversee, Arnav Singh Raizada closed his laptop. For the first time in his professional career, he was not going to be working for the next ten days.

 

Would he be able to stay away from work for that long?

 

Why not? After all he would be in paradise alone with his wife, who deserved his full attention, just as he did hers. With the last six weeks being hectic and being apart, they both needed this.

 

He made his way out of his room to join the others, but stopped in the hall, hearing a familiar text alert. His lip curved at the corner of his mouth, taking the phone out of his pocket and glanced at the screen.

 

“Hi! I know you must be busy with the preparations for tonight, but I was wondering if you had some time to meet me. There is something I need to discuss with you.”

 

The smile disappeared in no time, unsure of what to make of the text.

 

“Sure I can meet you. Your house?”

 

“No, I need to meet you alone. Plus I am not home, had to take care of something for tonight. Can we meet at your office?”

 

He didn’t like the vibe he was getting from her message, this was unlike her wanting to meet alone with everything going on.

 

“Let’s meet at my penthouse at AR Headquarters. I will be there in twenty minutes.”

 

“Okay, thanks!”

 

He immediately rushed out to see what could be so important.  

 

Khushi stepped inside the penthouse using her key that Arnav had given her before she left New York. Placing the key back inside her bag, she walked to the kitchen.  

 

She grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge attempting to relax herself before his arrival. This wasn’t going to be an easy conversation, in fact she wasn’t sure why she wanted to do this. But it was out of obligation for her father.

 

But would she be able to convince Arnav?

 

“Khushi!”

 

“I am right here…”

 

She walked out of the kitchen towards him in the living room. She was met with his concerned gaze, as he hit her with questions in one breath.  

 

“How did you get here? Why are you in your workout clothes? Did you go out running by yourself? Didn’t I tell you not to go outside after the paparazzi incident? What’s wrong?”

 

Khushi shook her head, leaping into his arms and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. She stayed that way for a long moment, as he held her.

 

“Sweetheart… what’s the matter?  Please say something, you’re worrying me…”

 

She gazed up at him, and smiled.

 

“I took a taxi from the market where Babuji had dropped me off. He needed to take care of something, so I told him I would call when I am ready to be picked up… before you panic, the bodyguard was with me.    

 

“And that makes it okay? What was the need for you to even go out today?”

 

She looked down, since she couldn’t tell him the truth. Right now ignorance was the route she chose, and got straight to the point on a whole other matter.  She pulled away from his arms, and walked over to the windows.  

 

“Um… woh… when I was out, I bumped into someone…”

 

He stilled looking at her back, then hearing who she met, he clenched his fists not liking where this was headed.

 

“Sameer’s parents… they congratulated me, on our shaadi.  Arnav, I wanted to talk to you about inviting…” She turn around to face him, his body stiffened as he yelled out.

 

“No!”  

 

“Please listen to me. They are my parents’ friends and I feel bad not including them in the ceremonies when we invited their other mutual friends. They haven’t done anything wrong, in fact they supported me. Arnav, despite how Sameer was, his parents are really nice people. For me, can we invite them… please?”

 

He laughed at the irony of the situation, but this time he was not going to change his mind.

 

“I don’t care if they are nice people because that does not justify them attending our wedding. Being his parents is a reason enough. Why don’t you get it? I want nothing about him lingering over us on our most important day.  And the fact you want this surprises me, Khushi.”

 

She walked closer to him, but he shook his head, taking a few steps back.

 

“I want this for my father…”

 

“If your father wanted them there, he would have said something. The fact he hasn’t, indicates he doesn’t. The answer is no regardless.”

 

“Arnav, that’s not fair.”

 

“Oh really?! Do you know what’s not fair? The fact that we are even having this bloody discussion. Did you know that asshole is living with them since he came back here? Did they give you that piece of information?”

 

“But how do you…”

 

She walked over to be sofa slumping down, all the sudden feeling drained and light headed.  

 

“Come on, Khushi. Did you think I would not keep track of his whereabouts while you are here? There is no way he will ever come near you.”

 

“What is the need for that? I told you he is harmless.” She fixed her steady gaze on him, and watched his jaws tighten.

“I don’t give a fuck if he is harmless! The fact will always remain that he tried to harm you and I will take any measure that it never happens again. I can’t believe we are fucking having this discussion!”

 

He let out a loud grunt, sitting down on the other end of the sofa, frustrated at himself for losing control. He ran his hands through his hair, leaning back and closing his eyes trying to calm himself before saying anything further.

 

Neither one said anything for a few minutes lost in their thoughts, until her phone started to ring.  She sighed, getting up from the sofa, walking towards the kitchen to pick up her phone.

 

“Hello Babuji… um.. no I am still not finished. Yeah, I will let you know when I leave.” She was startled seeing him come up behind her in the kitchen when she disconnected the call.

 

“Let’s go, I will drop you off. They are looking for me at home, I need to get back.”

 

Before she could say anything, he started to walk towards the front door holding it open for her.

 

She stood in place, staring at him, hoping he would at least look at her. But he was busy typing something on the phone, leaning against the door.

 

He observed her from the corner of his eyes, aware she still wanted to talk. But at this point he had nothing to say.  

 

An eerie silence surrounded them during the car ride to her house with Arnav looking out the window and Khushi at him. She knew there was only one thing that would made make this right again.  

 

What should she do?

 

Her mouth opened several times, but she closed it, keeping in mind that Bala was driving.

 

When the car stopped in front of her house, Arnav continued to ignore her, looking the other way.

 

“Bala, can you please give Sir and I a few minutes alone? You can go wait by the shaded patio.”

 

He nodded, getting out of the car, leaving them alone.  

 

“Arnav… baby, can you at least look at me? Tonight is our sangeet and I don’t want us to walk away right now not like this.”

 

“I know very well what tonight is, but you can’t expect me to be okay. I have told you how I feel… the decision is yours.” His piercing gaze steadied on her, as she sighed in defeat, leaning back in her seat. She didn’t say anything for a moment, looking straight ahead.

 

She put her hand over his, and spoke softly.

 

“If you don’t want them at the functions, they won’t be. I will see you tonight.”

 

His hand turned beneath hers, and squeezed it in acknowledgement, before she let go, getting out of the car.

 

He sighed frustratedly, watching her walk slowly up to the house. Right now he should be relieved, but somehow he wasn’t. He yelled kicking the front seat, for their day being ruined with the shadow of Sameer.

 

“Damn it!”

 

*****

 

“Titaliya, did you come back with Arnav? Why didn’t he come inside?”  

 

“Woh, he had to get back home.”

 

Shashi knew something was not right, looking at his daughter’s face. Her face usually gleamed after seeing Arnav, but today there was sadness in her eyes.

 

He silently watched her every move, as she glanced at the table which had the gifts and sweets for tonight’s function. Then walked away shaking her head, muttering under her breath.

 

Thirty minutes later, Garima called out for her, after not getting a response, he decided to see for himself what was troubling her.

 

He knocked on the slightly ajar door, and walked inside to find Khushi sitting on the floor, packing her suitcase. A task her mother had been on her back for the past couple of weeks.

 

“So it looks like my Titaliya is in a hurry to go to her sasural…”

 

“Um… I am packing before Amma yells at me again.”  

 

She kept her back to her father, not ready to face him. At this point she wanted to be left alone, but that didn’t seem like a possibility with him standing over her.

 

Shashi heard the twinge in her voice, there was no doubt his daughter had been crying.

 

What could have happened between her and Arnav?

 

The dreaded breakup from her past came to mind for a quick moment but he instantly shook that thought away. He knew Arnav and Khushi’s relationship was strong.  There was trust and love, that wouldn’t easily break them apart.

 

There was one thing that would make her talk, so he decided to give it a try.

 

“Khushi, what happened between you two that has you upset? I saw his driver waiting on the porch while you both were talking in the car. Did Arnav do something to hurt you?”

 

Why did her father always think it was Arnav’s fault?

 

This was all her doing. The last half hour thinking through her actions had made her realize what a stupid idea it was to even suggest inviting Sameer’s parents.

 

Things were going well, but of course she needed to add unnecessary drama to the equation. Arnav was right, she could be just as dramatic as Anjali. She couldn’t help laugh at that thought.

 

He warily looked at her to discern what could be the matter with his daughter, upset one minute and laughing the next.  

 

She took a deep breath, as much as she wanted to keep this from him, he deserved to know what happened today. She took his hand, leading him to her bed to sit.

 

Khushi explained to her father what occurred when she saw Sameer’s parents, and a part of her conversation that could be shared with Arnav.

 

“Khushi, why would you even think about inviting them? I am with Arnav on this. I understand you want to do this for me, but you should have consulted with me first. This could have easily been diverted. Now both of you are upset over something that should not even hold such significance right before your wedding. Beta, you can’t always want to do things for others, start thinking about you and Arnav first. Do you understand?”

 

He wrapped his hand around her shoulder, seeing tears fall down her cheek as she nodded. She placed her head on her father’s shoulder, finding comfort.

 

“I really don’t know what I was thinking…”

 

“Shhh… It’s okay, first stop crying before your Amma comes up here. And Arnav is sensible, he will understand and things will be fine when you see him tonight.”

 

She looked up at her father, really hoping that would be the case. And as if he had read her mind, he softly spoke up.

 

“There is one thing I know, Arnav would do anything to make you happy. I bet he is probably upset at himself right now for what happened earlier. Khushi, do you know the one thing I beat myself up about?”

 

He smiled, watching his daughter shaking her head and scrunching up her red nose.  As he glanced around the room, he was reminded about the memories sitting here when she was a little girl.  But now she was all grown up, and getting married tomorrow.  

 

How did she grow up so fast?

 

Wasn’t it yesterday that he held her hand when she started walking for the first time?

 

And tomorrow, he would give her hand to Arnav…

 

“The fact it took me time to be convinced Arnav was right for you… I should have known when you first told us about him, seeing how happy he made you. Even when he came here to visit us for the first time and confidently asked for your hand in marriage. That took a lot of guts- I didn’t make it easy for him, but he didn’t back down. Do you know even if I tried to find someone, he would not be as good as Arnav. I am glad you chose him, finding yourself a perfect partner and a son for us.”

 

Khushi’s heart swelled with happiness, hearing her parents acceptance of Arnav as their son. She hugged her father, and he smiled as he saw her mood change.

 

“Thank you, Babuji… you don’t know how much this means to me that you have accepted Arnav the way you have.”

 

“Okay, now go fix your face, before your Amma sees you. Then she will become one of the dukhi actresses from the serial she watches.”

 

They laughed at the possibility as her father left the room, closing the door behind him.

 

Khushi wanted things to be back to normal with this behind them before the Sangeet, so she decided to send Arnav a text.

 

“I’m really sorry for the drama earlier, it wasn’t needed and you were right. And you know, I rarely admit to that since I am always right 😉  Can we forget this ever happened? I will do whatever you want to make up for ruining our day today… I love you, baby!”

 

She sighed, putting her phone to her chest, and then glanced at the pile of bags that needed to be packed.

 

The next hour, Khushi kept the phone close by, packing her bags for New York while keeping her Delhi bags to the side for her mother’s help. For once she should have listened to her mother and tackled this much earlier.  

 

How did she accumulate so much stuff in a matter of four weeks?

 

Distracted with getting things in order helped her to not constantly glance at her phone for Arnav’s reply. But hearing the alert, she smiled.

 

“Sorry, I just saw your message, it’s a bit hectic here. And I am also sorry about losing my temper earlier. I would also like to forget what happened, and have my Khushi back the way I love her… smiling! As for what you can do to make up for this… let me think about it and let you know 😉  Can’t wait to see how gorgeous you will look tonight. Oh, I love you more, sweetheart!”

 

Tonight couldn’t come soon enough for her to see him, along with his reaction for the surprise she had planned.

 

*****

 

When the Gupta’s arrived at Shantivan, the mansion had gone through a magical transformation with a stage set-up at one end of house. There were fairy lights hung in every inch of the home, along with pink and brown sheer fabric. Khushi was left speechless with the decor for their Sangeet as Anjali and Payal showed her around.  

 

“Aakash, where is Arnav?”  

 

She glanced around anxiously, not finding him around.

 

“Is my Behena missing her fiance? How cute…”

 

“I swear, you make fun of me and see how I help you with your romantic dates. So are you going to tell me?”

 

“Fine terminator, he’s in his room. Bhai has asked me to send you there. Enjoy lovebirds and no rush since there is still plenty of time left for the guests to arrive.”

 

“Thank you, Bhaiya!”  She giggled, pinching his cheek and hurried towards Arnav’s room.

 

She smiled as she reached outside his door, lifting her hand to knock but opted to walk inside as he was expecting her.  

 

Arnav was about to speak up hearing the door open, but was left stunned at the beautiful woman in front of him.  

 

Khushi was dressed a dark cream net layered lehenga with a thick gold stoned and purple border, which flared at the bottom. The short deep purple choli was embroidered in zari and stone, paired with a pink net dupatta, wrapped around her shoulders. Heavy chandelier earrings hung from her ears matching the choker necklace around her neck. Her hair pushed back from the front, with loose curls cascading to one side.

 

“Wow look at you!  You look absolutely stunning. Though I am not sure about this…  Did you really pick this out? Isn’t this jacket too long?”

 

He put the textured velvet chocolate brown against his chest that was in his hand, and frowned. She walked up to him, placing a kiss on his cheek and took the jacket from his hands.

 

“This is the latest style, and I know you will look very handsome in it. I would have figured you would like this, it’s sort of like the fitted suits you wear. Here turned around, I will help you put the jacket on.”

 

He followed her instructions, sliding his arms inside the jacket. She walked around to face him, and slowly buttoned his jacket.  

 

“I missed this… you putting on my jacket. Having you this close to me…” He whispered in her ears, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulled her closer as she did the last button.

 

“Me too. Baby, one more day, then I will be yours forever.” She wrapped her arms around his neck.

 

“You already are mine.” He kissed her forehead, pulling her into an embrace, where they both remained. His arms provided her the solace she sought from earlier today.  

 

“I think we should go outside, before someone comes looking for us.”  She said a moment later, as he fixed his collar looking at the mirror.

 

“In a few minutes, first I need to give you something.”  

 

He made her sit down on the chaise, then walked inside his closet, coming back with a box in his hand.

 

She raised her eyebrow, as he sat next to her, placing the box in her hand. He gestured her to open it, looking on eagerly for her reaction.

 

“Oh Arnav, these are so beautiful. Where did you find these?” She gently placed the box down in between them, taking a payal in her hand.  

 

His heart brimmed, seeing how elated she was. Looking down at the box, he took the other payal in his hand.

 

“Khushi, did you know when I younger, I loved payals? Ma used to wear them… They made me feel closer to her, by hearing the sound, always knowing where she was. And these…”  He paused, tracing the intricate design with his finger.  “I had insisted Ma to buy them for my wife…”

 

A soft gasp escaped from her, as he nodded, taking her hand in his.  

 

“Remember I told you we lost everything that belonged to my parents, including her jewelry. But Nani had these with her and gave them to me today. You probably have your own for the wedding, but it would mean so much to me if you would wear these…”

 

She looked back at the payal in her hand with tears blurring her vision. They weren’t only a gift, but a memory of his mother. And for her, they were priceless and now her prized possession.

 

“Arnav, of course I will wear them for our wedding. In fact would it be alright with you if I wear them now?”

 

He swallowed thickly, pushing back the tear that threatened to fall at her acceptance.

 

“Are you sure? I mean you can wear them tomorrow.”

 

“I would be honored to wear them to every function for our shaadi. By me wearing them, Ma will be there with us. Would you mind putting them on for me?”

 

She slid her shoes off, as he knelt down in front of her. He lifted her feet, and placed them on his knee. He glanced up, and she nodded, gesturing him to remove the ones she was wearing.  

 

She closed her eyes, feeling his warm hands graze her feet as he removed them. Feeling his fingers caress her legs, she opened her eyes and found him intensely watching her. After tying the payal around her ankles, he kissed both feet.  She shivered at his touch, feeling goosebumps erupting all over her skin. He placed her feet down, fixing her lehenga.

 

“They look perfect on you, sweetheart. Your mehndi came out beautiful on your feet and your…”  He kissed both of her hands, helping her up from the chaise.  

 

“Thank you for this precious gift, it’s one I will cherish forever.”

 

As he leaned down to kiss her, there was a knock at the door. He groaned, shaking his head, while she giggled.  

 

“Arnav, Khushi… let’s go the guests have started to arrive. We need to get the sangeet started.”

 

“We’re coming Di!” He paused. “Get used to this, interruptions all day long in Shantivan. There is no privacy around here. I hope you like our room.”

 

He winked at her, motioning to the bed.

 

“Besharam!”

 

“Please don’t besharam me, it’s been six very long weeks. I hope you’re ready for our suhaag raat. And I don’t want to hear any excuses about how you’re tired.”

 

“Um… didn’t you know there is a rasam, where we won’t be sleeping together tomorrow?”

 

“Don’t even try it! They were talking about decorating this room for tomorrow night, so it’s a given that we are sleeping together. Though there won’t be much sleeping. I suggest you close your mouth. I would offer to do it myself but don’t want to ruin your makeup. Plus I won’t be able to control myself.  Now come on let’s go before they barge in here.”

 

The sangeet was kicked off in full pomp with the band playing live music as the guests started to arrive. After greeting everyone, and meeting new faces, both families were anxious to kick off the function. Unknown to the jodi, everyone had planned something special for them tonight.

 

“Why do you look so nervous, sweetheart?”

 

He had been observing her, continuously staring at the stage as they walked around meeting with the guests. And now as they sat down in their seats, waiting for the function to start, she kept fidgeting with her dupatta.

 

“Woh… um… who me nervous? No, why would I be?”

 

Who was she kidding?  

 

She was petrified getting up there for her surprise, but a part of her couldn’t wait to see his reaction. She took a deep breath, putting aside her nerves to enjoy the sangeet.

 

She leaned back in her seat, wrapping her arm with his and smiled at him.

 

“Now that is much better. Waise, do you what they have planned? I hope it’s not too much, there is only so much I can take of this.”

 

“Oh I suggest you sit back and get comfortable, we are going to be here for awhile. Everyone has been working hard to put on a performance together for us. Please just enjoy it.”

 

She smiled, before turning to the stage where Aakash stood with a mic in his hand.

 

“Welcome everyone to the Gupta, Raizada Sangeet function! We are all glad you were able to join us in the celebrations for two very special people, Arnav and Khushi…  Bhai and soon to be Bhabhi, though you will always be my behena, this is from all us to you!”

 

Arnav and Khushi watched on amazed at the talent and performance each member of the family put together with a medley of songs. They were shocked to see Nani and Buaji, add a classical twist to the performance. Even Aditya, made his dancing debut in his parents arms for his mamu and new soon to be mami, which left Khushi blowing kissing and whistles.  

 

When she heard her mother’s voice on stage, singing a song she often did when she was growing up, it brought tears to her eyes. Arnav wrapped his arm around her shoulder, handing his handkerchief to her. The heartfelt song, touching both of them.

 

Mehlon ka raja mila

Ki rani beti raaj karegi

Khushi khushi kar do bida

Tumhari beti raaj karegi

Mehlon ka raja mila

Ki rani beti raaj karegi

 

Galiyon galiyon dhoom machegi

Galiyon galiyon dhoom machegi

Kandhe kandhe doli chalegi

Doli mein dolega jiya

Doli mein dolega jiya

Ki rani beti raaj karegi

Khushi khushi kar do bida

Tumhari beti raaj karegi

 

Afterwards, despite Arnav’s refusal, his family pulled him up on stage, making him dance along with them towards the end of their performance.  

 

Khushi smiled looking on, seeing him letting loose, and having a good time. It was a rare sight to see Arnav Singh Raizada on the dancefloor to upbeat desi music. Though she was left stunned at the end, when Aakash urged him to sing something. He took the mic, staring directly at her and smirked, raising his eyebrow.

 

Le Jayenge Le Jayenge

Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge

Aji Rahey Jayenge Rahey Jayenge

Delhiwaley Dekhtey Rahey Jayenge

 

A few moments later, he came back taking his seat next to her and winked at her.  She pulled him towards her, tightly wrapping her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek.

 

“Khushi, what are you doing? I don’t mind, but not sure how our families will feel about you kissing me in public.”

 

“After that performance, baby, I really don’t care. Plus that was harmless, we are getting married so they will understand. Though I would love to do so much more, but for now this is good.”  She winked at him, getting up from her seat.  “I will be right back…”

 

A few minutes later, the lights went off, followed by a spot light hitting center stage. He smiled, seeing Khushi standing there looking out at the crowd.

 

“Thank you everyone on behalf of Arnav and I for making our Sangeet extra special by being here with us. And to our families and friends, the performances were mind blowing… thank you, we will always remember them.  And now, for the last performance for the evening before we open up the dance floor for everyone to dance the night away.”  

 

She paused, taking a deep breath, gathering herself to continue.

 

His heart thudded in his chest as she began speaking, staring directly at him with a glint her eyes.

 

“This performance is dedicated to my Arnav, who has shown me the meaning of true love, giving me a new life by being with me every step of the way… good and bad. And may we find our future together happily as husband and wife…”

 

He threw her a soft flying kiss, making her smile before the stage went dark.

 

A moment later, the spotlight shone on her feet, as she slightly raised her lehenga to reveal her payal and started to tap her feet in place, and began to dance gracefully on the stage along with the music.  

 

Maine paayal hai chhankaayi
Ab to aaja tu harjaayi
Meri saanson mein tu hai basa
O sajna, aaja na ab tarsa
Maine paayal hai chhankaayi
Ab to aaja tu harjaayi
Meri saanson mein tu hai basa
O sajna, aaja na ab tarsa

 

He sat there in awe, his heart swelling with every move and gesture through the song as she emphasized the payals.  

 

Chale jab yeh purvaayi

Baje dil mein shahenaayi
Tu hi mere sapnon ka, o sajna

 

Main din bhar soch mein jugoon
Main raat mein jaag mein soun
Tu hi dil mein rehta hai, o sajna

 

Though she could only see his silhouette in the dark, she felt his eyes on her the entire time. She continued giving her everything in the performance as she sang and danced for him and only him.

 

As the song was coming to its end, she went off the stage and took his hand taking him up on the stage as another upbeat melody started and she danced around him. Both of their families joining them on stage, and danced around them with diyas in their hands, letting him know it was a joint planned performance.  

 

Pardesiya Yeh Sach Hai Piya

Sab Kehte Hain Maine Tujhko Dil De Diya

Main Kehti Hoon Tune Mera Dil Le Liya

 

He felt the euphoria surrounding him as they all danced, feeling it himself for his loved ones. But most of all for the woman who stood in front him smiling brightly, his everything. He pulled her into his arms, wrapping his arms around her, as she did the same. He leaned down kissing her forehead, and whispered in her ears.

 

“You were spectacular, thank you… I love you!”

 

The sangeet turned out to be one memorable evening for both of them, one that would remain in their hearts.  But at the end of the night, both closer to becoming one.  A moment they both were eagerly waiting for.  

 

Tomorrow they will be married.

 

*****

 

The next morning, Arnav and Khushi woke up with wide smiles on their wedding day. Finally the day had arrived, and both were impatient to see the other tonight.  

 

But before the wedding, the Haldi ceremony needed to take place. Both families spent the morning conducting the ceremony at their respective homes.  

 

The Raizada’s celebrations were joyful applying haldi on Arnav, dressed in his old jeans and a button down yellow shirt, which Anjali insisted on him wearing.  She wanted him in something colorful, compared to his dark, dull colored clothing he typically wore.  

 

Arnav wasn’t thrilled as everyone took turns putting Haldi on his arms and feet.  He was adamant, only allowing two people to apply it on his face, Nani and Di.   

 

While at the Gupta’s residence, the celebration was less joyful, since it was their daughter’s last few hours in their home. Though Buaji tried to make the atmosphere lighter teasing her sanka devi. Along with other relatives and friends, who generously applied haldi to Khushi’s fair skin.

 

But for Garima and Shashi, it was tearful, standing over their daughter and getting nostalgic recalling her childhood days.

 

Khushi sat, with a heavy heart, in a burgundy velvet with gold embroidered lehenga, paired with a mustard silk choli, and a light yellow sheer dupatta.  While she was ready to get married, the thought of being away from her parents, saddened her.

 

When she stood up to take her parents blessing, they engulfed her in a group hug. Something they had been doing for years, but this one left them emotional.

 

*****

 

After the ceremony was over, Arnav walked into his room, noticing a text from Khushi.

 

“So we’re finally getting married tonight 🙂  There is a little something for you in the drawer on the left side table next to our bed. I hope to see you with it tonight… Love you more, my soon to be husband! XOXO”  

 

He walked over to the table, and opened the drawer finding the wrapped box.  Taking it in his hand, he sat on the bed. Intrigued by the gift, he quickly tore off the wrapping paper.

 

His eyes widened, as he caressed the Breitling watch label on the lacquer black box. When he opened the box, he was taken aback by the stunning platinum watch with a black face with a hint of red dial. But what made his heart skip a beat was a handwritten tag attached to the watch from Khushi.

 

“See you at midnight! Hamesha yours, Khushi”

 


 

 

 

 


 

 

See you all back here on Friday dressed in your finest for the wedding of our lovely couple… ❤

Part 4 – Mehendi

“Hmmm… Oh Arnav… Baby, please…”

 

She softly moaned in her sleep, hugging her pillow close to her chest. But startled, she jerked sitting up on her bed, hearing a shrill tone continuously going off.  

 

She shook her head, placing her hand on her chest, trying to calm her rapidly beating heart when she realized it was only a dream. But how can it be, it felt so real…

 

Was she really dreaming about Arnav and her…

 

What was happening to her?

 

The loud ring from her phone brought her out of her thoughts. She grabbed the phone from the side table, wondering who could be calling her so early interrupting her sleep, not to mention an erotic, hot as hell dream.

 

“Oh shit… it’s Jack.” She answered the call quickly with a quick hello, hoping he had some good news.

 

“Ms. Gupta, Congratulations! The Hamptons house is officially yours, we are out of contract and ready to close.”

 

She smiled widely, irritation at being woken up vanishing in an instant.  

 

“That is great news! Thank you so much Jack for taking care of this with me being in India. So what happens next… I want to make sure the house is under Arnav’s name, since I will be gifting it to him for our wedding. Though the financing of the house should be under my name. Can we make sure that happens?”

 

They spent the next few minutes talking through the process, along with finalizing the closing date for the property when they return to New York.

 

She took a deep breath after she hung up the phone, lying back on the bed.

 

A week after the engagement, in the midst of the planning for the wedding, she was contemplating on what she should give him as a wedding present.  

 

What do you give a man that has everything?  

 

She wanted the gift to have a significant meaning. It was when he reminded her about the time she first said, I love you, that it clicked. The beach house. It held so many of their first memories. A place they both loved, and a great escape for them from their hectic life.

 

She had contacted Jack to find out the details to see if the house was on the market. He had mentioned the owner was planning to sell the home when they worked together planning the surprise vineyard dinner for Arnav. After a few back and forth with the owner, getting the financing approved, they were able to finalize the details before she came to Delhi and went into contract.  

 

And now, it will be their home.

 

“Mr. Raizada, you’re not the only one that can pull off surprises.”  She laughed in excitement, anticipating his reaction not only to this surprise, but some others she had planned for the next few days.

 

All of a  sudden she had the urge to speak with him, first the dream and now this. She wondered if he was awake, glancing at the clock, it was only six o’clock.

 

She decided to take her chance, and texted him.

 

“Are you awake?”

 

After hitting the send button, she grabbed her laptop, deciding to take care of some work for the next hour that required her attention before her official time off began.  

 

She smiled, hearing the alert a few moments later.

 

“Now I am. The question is what are you doing up so early? I don’t want to hear you are working. Remember you’re supposed to be officially off starting today.”

 

“I am awake because you came into my dreams… can you guess what we were doing? ;)”

 

His eyes widened in shock, not expecting the response that appeared on the phone screen. But he had an idea what it could be, so he took a chance with a lopsided smirk plastered on his face.  

 

“Let’s see… did it involve “meetha”?”

 

“Yes”

 

“Were there clothes involved?”

 

“No”

 

“Have we done this before?”

 

“No”

 

“Was this on a flat surface?”

 

“Um… I guess… yes”

 

Knowing she wasn’t going to directly tell him, he decided to end their texting game and called her.  

 

Khushi smirked, looking at the incoming call and answered the phone.

 

“Took you long enough to call me. Sorry for waking you up, but I wanted to talk to you.”

 

“So let me get this straight, you didn’t dream about us.”

 

“Oh I certainly did dream about us, but if you want to find out what we were doing in my dream… then I suggest you tell me where we are going on our honeymoon.”

 

“Keep trying, sweetheart, but it’s not going to work.”

 

“Come on, that’s not fair. How will I know what to pack?”

 

“You don’t need to worry about packing. I have taken care of it, actually our luggage for the honeymoon is on the jet.”  

 

“You can’t be serious! I hope you remember what I said last night.”  

 

“That threat is not going to work, and you know it! You dreaming about sex and last night getting carried away in the back seat, tells me you want it as badly as I do. Six weeks without it is hell of a long time… I think I have shown more control over this than you have. So, soon to be Mrs. Raizada, how about we change the topic. Is there anything you need me to take care of today?”

 

She smiled, knowing he was right. Her head started spinning, thinking about everything that needed to happen today, before the Mehendi ceremony tonight.

 

“Did you take a look at your clothes like I asked yesterday? They’re in your closet, and I labeled what you should wear at which function. Please make sure to wear the cream Kurta with the blue jacket tonight for the Mehendi.”

 

He got up from the bed, walking inside his closet to find a few labeled garment bags. She had mentioned it the day he arrived, and again yesterday, but getting sidetracked with work, he had completely forgotten.

 

Looking at the garment bag labeled Mehendi, he opened it up and frowned.  

 

“Khushi, there is no way I am wearing this. This looks like those things you wear minus a dupatta. Oh wait, there is a dupatta. I don’t think so! I thought you were going to get me suits.”

 

“Baby, you are only going to be wearing a Kurta tonight and a Sherwani for the wedding, the rest should be fine. Trust me, it will look really dashing on you. I can’t wait to see you in what I have picked out for all the functions. Don’t you love me?” She said softly.

 

He sighed deeply, still frowning looking at the clothes he was expected to wear.  

 

How did he get himself into this?

 

He should have known better handing her full reins to their wedding preparations. But there was no way he was going to wear this clown outfit.

 

“Are you trying to give me the guilt trip? That’s not fair, and you know it. And what does me loving you have anything to do with this?”

 

She got up from the bed irritated, taking her laptop and walked towards her study. She took a deep breath, deciding not to force him to wear something he wasn’t comfortable with. She knew this was going to happen, which is why she had asked him to look at it earlier to swap out if necessary.

 

“You know what Arnav, I have taken everything you have given me, along with wearing it. But now, you can’t do the same for me. This conversation is over, since I don’t want to argue. I have a lot to do today for my shaadi, since my fiancé just decided to show up when he should have been here over a week ago. And now, all the sudden he wants a say in this. You can wear whatever you want, I don’t care. Make sure to send the clothes back to your designer friend and ask for whatever you would like. I guess I will see you tonight… that is if you are not busy. Bye!”

 

“Khushi, listen to me…”  He yelled into phone, trying to get her not to hang up.  But it was too late, glancing at the phone, she had ended the call. “Damn it!” He ran his hand through his hair and paced around in his walk in closet.

 

She could be so stubborn at times. Why couldn’t she understand he’s not comfortable wearing this?

 

Bridezilla… that is what she had become planning their shaadi.

 

He had observed the changes and mood swings, the last few weeks since she had arrived in Delhi. Any little thing would set her off and there was no reasoning with her. He had learned quickly to leave her alone, but would that work today?

 

He scowled at the Kurta, finding it impossible for him to wear something like this. He had never worn it before, and had never intended to either.

 

He sighed, distracting himself with work before dealing with what to wear for this evening.

 

The next couple of hours, Khushi worked non-stop sending out emails left and right despite his several replies and texts asking her not to work. She also declined his calls, continuing to work.

 

She dialed into his staff meeting, speaking up after everyone else announced themselves on the conference call.

 

“Khushi is here as well…”  She leaned back in her chair with a smug expression on her face, waiting for Arnav to respond.

 

“Khushi, you don’t need to join the call. You are on vacation.” He said firmly, standing up in his study at home, shaking his head.

 

“Excuse me, but according to US time it’s not the 29th, so I am still on the clock Mr. Raizada. I wanted to provide you my status, like everyone else before my vacation.” She smirked, knowing he was irritated and couldn’t be happier after his rejection to wearing the Kurta.

 

He didn’t say anything further with everyone else from his leadership team on the call. He kicked off the meeting, and with everyone providing their updates he texted her.

 

“Why are you doing this? There is a lot going on, you need to stop working, please!”

 

“You can’t make me do anything I don’t want to. I am following in your footsteps 😉  I suggest you focus on the call, not sure if you are listening to Aman but what he is suggesting doesn’t seem like a good idea. Talk to you later, ASR!”

 

Both of them put aside their differences, and resumed the call discussing some critical issues that needed to be resolved before they both stopped working.

 

After the call Arnav noticed she was still working, and now it was almost ten o’clock.  

 

“That’s it Khushi Kumari Gupta, this is going to end now!”  

 

With that resolve in mind, he left his study, getting ready to go see her.

 

“Arnav, you better not be going to the office, otherwise I am going to call Khushi.”

 

Anjali called out for him, seeing him walking towards the front door. He turned to face her, and she held up her phone, furrowing her eyebrows.

 

“Oh really Di! First look at me, I am in jeans and a pullover… does it look like I am going to work? And how about you tell your friend to stop working? She’s been at it continuously for the last few hours, driving me fucking crazy.”

 

“Wait, what? Why is she working? All of us are supposed to go to the spa in a couple of hours. Today is a busy day, hold on, let me call her…”

 

Arnav put his hand over her phone, and shook his head.

 

“Let me go deal with her, she is not going to listen over the phone.”

 

He turned, walking swiftly out of the house, before she could say anything.  She sighed, hoping her workaholic brother could stop her workaholic friend.  

 

“Bitwa, what are you doing here so early?”  

 

Arnav greeted everyone, stepping inside the house and noticed the workers starting the setup for this evening’s event.  

 

Garima and Buaji smiled, curiously looking at him as his eyes were on the staircase.

 

“I actually came here to get something from Khushi. Would it be alright if I went upstairs? I think she is in her study.”

 

“Arrey, you don’t need to ask. This is your home, go right ahead. And, please tell her the decorators are here. I have been screaming for her to come down but she isn’t listening.” Garima shook her head, gesturing towards the stairs.

 

He nodded, before climbing the stairs, two steps at a time.

 

“Hello Ms. Gupta!”  

 

Khushi looked up from the screen, shocked to see him standing at the doorway  She stood up from the chair, as he closed the door, then watched nervously as he proceeded to lock the door.

 

“Arnav… what are you doing? My family is downstairs…”

 

He shrugged, suppressing a smile, and walked up to her.

 

“Sweetheart, they know I am up here. I was forced to make an appearance, since apparently you don’t know when to give up. So I will make this easy for you.”

 

He pulled her closer to him, wrapping his arm around her waist. She placed her hands on the planes of this chest, trying to get out of his hold.  

 

“You need to behave yourself. What if Amma comes up here…”

 

“Oh don’t worry, I don’t think any of them are coming up here. They’re busy with the workers setting up for this evening. If I am not mistaken, Auntie has asked you to come down. But of course, you don’t listen… I swear, you are testing my patience today. And it’s time I teach you a lesson.”  

 

His intense gaze penetrated right through her, making her tremble as his lips slammed down on hers. He kissed her passionately, his hands touching her bare skin inside her t-shirt, cupping her breast.

 

She moaned, feeling the wave of heat spreading throughout her body, craving for more as he deepened the kiss.

 

He opened his eyes, slowing pulling away, then took her in his arms.  

 

After their breathing steadied, she gazed up at him. He caressed her hair away from her face, placing soft kiss on her swollen lips.

 

“Is that the lesson you wanted to teach me?”

 

“No it wasn’t… I couldn’t resist after seeing you, not knowing when I will get you alone like this over the next few days. But now, my love, you look thoroughly kissed.”

 

“Whose fault is that?”

 

“Mine, and I love it. Did the kiss help bridezilla feel better?”

 

“What did you call me? Let go of me, I am still mad at you from earlier…”  She whined.

 

“Khushi, just face it, that is what you have become planning our shaadi. But now that I am here, today you will go enjoy your girls afternoon at the spa.  While I deal with things here. No more excuses, now go take a shower!”

 

She pouted, burying her face in his chest, wanting to stay there and forget about everything that needed to get done in the next few days.

 

“I feel like I am going to lose it any minute with all these preparations.  Everyone is pulling me from so many directions. This morning I had to work, so I can keep my mind away from this. I swear planning a wedding is more stressful than my job.”

 

He lifted her chin, hearing her voice crack. She gave him a sheepish smile, feeling his thumb wipe the lone tear that escaped her eye.

 

“This is why I suggested we get a wedding planner. You don’t have to do this all yourself, sweetheart.”

 

“We did get a wedding planner, but with so many functions, there are things that require my attention. And everyone is helping, but I just needed some me time where I can control things. Which is my job at the moment.”

 

He sighed, watching her go towards the desk. After getting distracted with the kiss, it was time to take matters into his hands seeing how stressed she was.

 

“Don’t even think about it, Khushi…”

 

She gasped, as he closed the lid of her laptop, then picked it up from the desk, walking out of the study.

 

“Arnav, give me back my laptop!”  She yelled, running after him down the stairs.  

 

“You are done working, Ms. Gupta!”

 

Her family watched on intently, as Arnav walked around the main area holding up the laptop, while Khushi paced around him, trying to reach up for it.

 

“If you don’t give it back to me, then I will…”  

 

“You will what? Uncle, Auntie, can you please tell your “sanki” daughter she needs to stop working.”

 

Garima walked over to her, and hit her arm.

 

“Khushi, what’s this? You are not supposed to be working when there is so much to do. Plus you have to leave in an hour. Hai Bhagwan! You didn’t even shower yet. What am I going to do with this ladki?”

 

Khushi glowered at Arnav, as his lips curved in amusement while everyone was lecturing her for working.

 

Accepting defeat she went upstairs, while Arnav got busy overseeing the work being done outside. When she walked outside thirty minutes later, dressed in a red kurta and jeans, Arnav was talking on the phone.

 

She was surprised to see everyone quietly working at a rapid pace. Totally opposite from a few days back when they were setting up the tent. She smiled, knowing who was responsible.

 

“Yeah… have them send over five extra guards for this evening. And make sure they also cover the back of the house. If anyone from the press arrives, they need to be removed immediately. I don’t want any issues, so make sure they understand.”

 

Khushi sighed, listening to ASR in full form, but this conversation didn’t faze her. After last night, she knew he would take extra precautionary steps for them to keep things private. He already had security around her house since she had arrived in Delhi.

 

“Hi Sweetheart. Look at how fresh and relaxed you are after that shower, not to mention you smell delicious. I took care of things out here, so nothing for you to worry about.”

 

He couldn’t help the smile that curved his lip, watching her blush, before she looked away.

 

“It certainly looks like you have things under control but I am not surprised.  My Arnav’s mission has always been to take care of things for me. Hain na?”

 

She smiled, gazing up at him, then stood beside him, wrapping her arm with his. He put his hand over hers, and she leaned against his shoulders.

 

“Indeed, that is my lifetime mission.”  

 

As they stood there talking, Khushi’s mother looked on fondly from the kitchen window doing the dishes. Her two children were truly meant for each other.  Arnav was not going to be her son in law, but was her son, which she had accepted during his first stay with them. There was something about him that was genuine, and the love he had for Khushi was undeniable. She had seen many young men who didn’t respect their in laws, acting superior, but Arnav was not like them.  

 

They say things happen for a reason, though she would never want her daughter to go through the anguish she went through. But in the end she was going to be with someone who loved her for who she is.

 

“Kisi ki nazar na lage mere bacchon par.”  She circled her hands over them, then put them on the side of her head.

 

*****

 

“Finally she is here!”  Payal yelled as Khushi walked into the spa.

 

“Seriously, this was our girls outing and you are thirty minutes late! It’s a good thing you are not attending ASR’s meeting.”  Lavanya laughed, watching Khushi stick her tongue out at her.

 

“This is why I said we should pick you up. But no, Arnav had to drop you off.  Waise, are you late because you guys were um… making out, after your long separation? If that’s the case, then it’s okay.”  Anjali smirked, shrugging her shoulder.

 

“Anjali, what the hell is wrong with you? That is your brother! And, for your kind information, there was traffic, plus Bala was in the car.”  Khushi winked, as her spa therapist came over.

 

“Awww my poor brother, must be sulking without some alone time with his Khushi. Oh I think you should get a Brazilian wax.”   

 

“Are you out of your mind? That would hurt, no way! I am already dreading waxing my legs today.”  

 

“I got a Brazilian wax right before I got married, and never again.” Lavanya shook her head in disgust, while the others looked at her stunned.

 

“Why do we have to do all this to maintain ourselves?  While the men are home probably watching sports…  Payal said, squirming while they got their Thai foot massages.

 

“I know right! I swear when we get back to New York, I am dragging Arnav for a pedicure” Khushi’s tone was serious for a moment, but then laughed unable to imagine him going through with it.

 

She was home a few hours later feeling relaxed and pampered, minus the waxing, but in the end it was worth it.  A much needed afternoon without any stress or being pulled in so many directions.  

 

And thanks to Arnav and her parents, everything at home was almost complete and the atmosphere in the house felt calm compared to the craziness it had been the last few days.

 

Since there was time for the beautician to come do her hair and makeup, her mother made her go lie down. Which was exactly what she needed to get through the long night ahead of them.

 

The Raizada family arrived right on time with the Gupta family greeting them outside. They all went to the back where the function was going to be held.  Both families were happy to allow the men to participate per Khushi’s wish.  She wanted everyone to be here for the function with close family and friends.

 

The outside was fully covered with sheer colorful fabric on the walls and draped from the ceiling with bronze lanterns hung for lighting. The oversized floor tables decorated with candles and large platters with loose flowers, Mehendi cones and bangles. The silk colorful pillows and oversized cushions served as the seating for comfort.

 

“Wow, this turned out so beautiful, Auntie, Uncle! Khushi’s wish for tonight came out just perfect. Has she seen it yet?”

 

“She hasn’t yet, Anjali Bitiya. Her Amma and I kept her away after she came home so she can see it completed. She should be coming… there she is… look Titaliya.”

 

Khushi stepped back in a light trance, as she glanced around at her vision coming to a reality. A Moroccan and Indian themed decor with warm, comfortable ambiance.  

 

Both families initially discussed having the Mehendi function in a hall, but she remembered her mother used to talk about having it held in their home when she was younger. That had prompted her to make sure it took place here much to the insistence from her parents to have it outside to accommodate all the guest from the Raizada’s.  

 

She looked over at her mother, who was smiling brightly, gesturing towards the arrangements to Nani and Mamiji. And at that moment she knew, the amount of work that went to putting this together was all worth it. It was her wedding but it was also her parents, especially her mother’s, dream to see this take place.  

 

“Beautiful.”

 

Arnav whispered, gazing at Khushi as she walked towards their family in a daze taking in the decor for the function. It was her creation come to life, elegant just like her.

 

Her blush pink silk lengha with bright multiple colored borders, sat perfectly low on her waist. The lehenga, paired with a bright maroon, embroidered blouse, and a sheer light blue dupatta hung over one side, completed the ensemble. Her hair was tied in a long braid, leaving her back fully exposed with two small strings keeping it tied together. The antique gold and stone jewelry that adorned her, matched the work in her lehenga.  

 

He smiled, standing in the corner away from her sight as she greeted everyone but he knew she was searching for him. And sure enough a moment later, she asked his sister about him.

 

“Where is Arnav?”

 

She glanced around feeling his presence, but not finding him with the family, she excused herself to search for him. Her heart started to beat rapidly in anticipation to see him and for him to see her, as she heard his husky voice behind her.  

 

“I am right here, Khushi.”

 

When she turned around, she wasn’t prepared for the sight in front of her. Arnav dressed in the cream pattern silk kurta with a navy blue bandhgala jacket, she had specifically picked out for him. It wasn’t traditional, with the jacket giving it a fusion modern look.

 

She tilted her head, smiling ear to ear at him as he walked over to her. He stopped in front of her, taking her hand in his and placed a soft kiss.

 

“I can’t believe you are wearing the Kurta… you look absolutely handsome.”  

 

His lips curved into a small smile, as her eyes glittered taking in his appearance.

 

“How could I not wear it? After all I want to be alive when we get married.” He chuckled, as she gently hit him on the chest. He took her hand in his, entwining them together.

 

“Sweetheart, you look amazing tonight.” He leaned in, placing a kiss on her cheek  “Shall we join the others?  t looks like the guests are arriving.”

 

“Yes, Mr. Raizada!  It’s time to kick off our Mehendi function.”

 

The function became lively with the music playing as the women selected their designs, ready to get them applied on their hands. All the women enjoyed themselves singing and talking, while the men watched on, amused at the chaos surrounding the women while keeping themselves occupied with food and each other’s company.  

 

Arnav stood in front of the chaat stations, and looked over at a sitting area where Khushi was catching up with a few childhood friends. She winked at him, as he gestured at the food. Both of them remembering her first visit at the penthouse. She had replicated all the dishes from that evening, adding a few more specialties from Delhi.

 

As Khushi sat down to get her mehndi applied, she tried getting Arnav’s attention, who was oblivious busy chatting with Aman, Aakash and few other executives from AR who traveled here for the wedding.

 

“Bhai, Khushi…” Aakash pointed towards her, as she motioned for Arnav to come see her.

 

Arnav excused himself, walking over to her, but he didn’t miss the mischievous glint her eyes, as she curved her lip when he sat down next to her.  

 

“Oh good, Arnav is here right on time.” Anjali placed a decorated thali with special mehndi cones for Khushi on the table, that was brought over from the groom’s side as shagun.

 

“For what? And Khushi why haven’t you put any mehendi on yet?” He asked, looking at her bare hands.

 

“They are going to start applying the mehendi now. That’s why I called you over, so you can be next to me. For pictures of course.” She said softly facing him, and batted her eyelashes. It was then he knew she was up to something, the question was… what?

 

And hearing Payal, his question was answered.

 

“Arnav bhai, it’s also custom to put some mehendi on the groom. Since you are here, we can put on both of your hands at the same time. Kyu, Nani?”

 

He looked up, seeing all the women had gathered around them, then Khushi sneakily nudged his back.

 

Did they really think Arnav Singh Raizada would put mehendi on his hand?

 

“Yes, for shagun he should put some on. Chote, why don’t you put just a tiny dot on one hand?”

 

He shook his head, and muttered “unbelievable” under his breath.

 

“Arrey this is ASR, he would never be caught with mehendi on his hand. You see, it won’t fit his shrewd business man image. It’s okay, so what if I have to put it all over my hands and arms, not to mention my feet, sitting here for hours. After all it’s my Shaadi… right, Mr. Raizada?” She raised her eyebrow, he didn’t miss her underlying tone challenging him.

 

“Khushi, why are you bothering Arnav Bitwa?”

 

He looked up at Garima Auntie who stood next to her, hitting her shoulder.  

 

“It’s okay Auntie.” He nodded, then fixed his gaze on Khushi. “Fine, I will do it… But only if Khushi puts it on my hand.”

 

She gasped, as the all women started laughing and teased her to hold his hand tight applying the mehendi.

 

“Don’t be shy, Khushi! He is going to be your husband in a couple days, then you both will be holding hands on your honeymoon… love birds.” Mamiji yelled, making everyone burst into laughter.

 

“What are you waiting for, Khushi? ASR said yes… Go for it.”  

 

“She won’t do it. You see Lavanya, your friend is…”

 

“I’ll do it!”  She yelled, interrupting Arnav before he said anything further.  

 

They stared at each other, and smirked. Both satisfied with the end result. He knew she had planned this prior to calling him over, but what she didn’t know was he would do anything she asked of him today. He could see how hard she worked putting together all the arrangements for this evening. And how stressed she has been. This was the least he could do for her today.

 

Luckily, Anjali and her mother dispersed the crowd away from them, suggesting them to eat or have their mehendi applied. There were a dozen mehendi artists hired to ensure everyone was taken care of.  

 

Khushi, thanked her friend for the privacy as they were left alone before she had to sit for her own mehendi which was going to be time consuming.

 

“You are a man full of surprises today… first you wore the kurta, then I saw you enjoying the chaat, and now you are ready for me to mark your hand.”

 

He leaned in closer to her, as she picked up a mehendi cone from the tray.  

 

“It’s all for you sweetheart. Though I will admit, this thing is annoying. I feel like someone is choking me…” He loosened the high collar that clung to his neck both from the kurta and jacket. “And let’s not forget the pants. I swear it feels like they are going to fall down. Don’t blame me if everyone sees my pants rolling down.”

 

She laughed at his animated facial expressions, as he fidgeted around on the cushions getting comfortable.  

 

“That would be rather amusing, don’t you think?”

 

“What I think is you should help me tighten these dumb clown pants?” He winked at her.

 

“Incorrigible… you do realize where we are?”

 

“Fine, I shall behave. Here, go ahead…” He put his hand out towards her, she placed her hand below his, bringing it closer to her.

 

“Let’s see what shall I do?  Maybe scribble all over your hands.” She giggled.

 

“That is not funny. And please do something small, after all I have given in to all your demands today.”

 

“That you have my love… oh I know what to do.”  

 

Her smile widened, as she started outlining his initial A, connecting a K side by side with a small heart attached to the bottom of the K.  She drew the pattern on the lower part of his hand.

 

“This symbolizes us connecting together… do you like it?”

 

“I love it, the way I love you.”

 

“And, I love you more.”

 

He smiled, grasping her hand from putting the cone away.  She raised her eyebrow, when he took the cone from her.  

 

“My turn to do the same on your hand, in the same spot… may I?”

 

She nodded for him to proceed. Her heart warmed, gazing at him as he intently drew the same pattern on her hand trying to make it perfect. He smiled up at her, proud of his accomplishment.

 

“Baby, I think you have found your calling. Arnav Singh Raizada, the mehendi expert. Come on stop frowning. And it’s perfect, let’s take a picture of our hands together. Once my hand gets covered, then it will be hard to see it.”

 

He nodded, taking his phone out from his pocket, before putting their hands together and clicking a few photos. They smiled, glancing at the screen then each other.  

 

“It looks like they are waiting for you sweetheart. I shall go, so these ladies can do their magic on you.”

 

“Wait before you leave… please tell me where we are going for the honeymoon. That way I can decide how much mehendi is okay. Meaning if we are going somewhere cold, then it will be covered and if it’s somewhere warm then I rather not go overboard like everyone wants me to.”

 

He stood up, shaking his head, and was about to walk away when he heard her plea.  

 

“Pretty please.”

 

He sighed heavily, seeing her pout, leaning her head to one side, the one thing that would always make him breakdown to give into her demands.

 

“There won’t be anyone but the two of us where we are going, so feel free to go overboard, I don’t mind. And it will be warm, but with us together… it will get very hot, very fast.”

 

He gave her an audacious wink, then walked away, leaving her shocked with her mouth wide open.

 

Where could they be going?

 

*****

 

“It looks like Bhai was forced to put mehendi on his hand.”  Aakash chuckled, after Arnav came back, sitting down at the table with them.

 

“So it appears he has, though it didn’t seem like he minded. After all it was Khushi who applied it. I remember during my wedding, we weren’t allowed at the function. One of my aunts did it, kaash it was Anjali.”

 

Arnav and Aakash looked at each other raising their eyebrow, not wanting to hear anything further about their sister’s love life.

 

“Nannav, let us see what you have on your hand.”

 

Arnav glared at NK, hearing Nannav, which had irritated him since they were younger. He didn’t understand why this guy would not give up calling him that, but he knew what would shut him up.

 

“At least it’s not my whole hand. I believe that’s what happened at your wedding, right Nand Kishore?” He curved his lip in a sly smirk, when NK’s mouth widened, then looked away.

 

“ASR, I am curious to see what I should expect when I get married, so  can I please see it.”  

 

“Aman, I suggest you find a girl first, before wanting to see what’s on my hand.  Actually there are a few of Khushi’s friends here that are single, should we find someone for you?”

 

“Well, there is one, if you don’t mind introducing me.” Aman said softly, as he blushed pointing to a girl who was talking to Khushi.

 

“Welcome to the club, Aman!  Finally, I was seriously doubting which team you were batting for a while now.”  

 

Aakash patted his shoulder, while the rest of them burst into laughter, drawing attention from everyone around them.

 

It looks like love is in the horizon for their dear friend Aman.

 

*****

 

“Amma!”  

 

Khushi yelled out for her mother, after sitting patiently for thirty minutes while two girls expertly applied mehendi on each hand.

 

“What happened, beta? Do you need something?”  

 

Her mother sat down next to her, smiling looking down at the intricate design coming together beautifully on her daughter’s hand.

 

“I am so hungry. Can you please get me something to eat and feed me?”

 

“Wait you didn’t eat anything before? I told you to eat first…”

 

“I did, but sitting here doing nothing with the smell of the food is making my mouth water. Please…” She pouted, making her mother sigh, as she went to get her some food, coming back a few minutes later with some of her favorite treats.

 

Garima caressed her cheeks, before she started to feed her some chaat. Memories of when she would apply mehendi to her little hands came flooding back. As she looked at those same hands, she smiled at them not being so little anymore. She had always dreamt of this moment taking place for her Khushi, but now that it was here… why was her heart aching? Why didn’t she want to let her go anymore? But she had to, wasn’t that part of life when you have a daughter?

 

In a couple of days, her Khushi would become part of another family. It’s said in our culture, your daughter is no longer yours once she gets married. But for Garima, her daughter would always be hers until she takes her last breath.

 

Khushi gazed up at her mother, who was lost in deep thought with tenderness in her eyes that shimmered with fresh tears. She signaled the girls to leave, to give her time with her mother alone.

 

“Amma, what’s wrong? Why are you crying right now?”  

 

She frowned in annoyance, unable to wipe her mother’s tears with the mehendi in her hands.

 

“These are happy tears, pagli. I have been waiting for this day for so long, and it’s here. Your mehendi looks so beautiful, and I know the color will come out dark because Arnav Bitwa loves you very much.”  She nodded with a small smile, before taking a piece of gulab jamun offering it to Khushi.

 

She shook her head, losing her appetite seeing her mother emotional, but hearing her mother she opened her mouth.

 

“One last bite, baccha… who knows when this Amma will get to feed her daughter again?”

 

Khushi swallowed the food, along with the lump in her throat, then went into her mother’s arms, raising her hands out.

 

“Amma, you will always have the right to feed me, it doesn’t matter if I am getting married. That will change nothing between us. You can still call at eight o’clock in the morning every Saturday. And do you know something?  Whenever you feed me, the food tastes so much better. It has my pyaari Amma’s love, which is the best ingredient in any food. Isn’t that what you used tell me when I was little and didn’t want to eat?”

 

They smiled, teary eyed, as her mother nodded.  

 

“That was the only way to get you to eat. I love you so much my sona baccha!”  

 

She leaned forward, kissing Khushi on her forehead, and in return her daughter blew a kiss on her cheek like she did when she was younger.  

 

“Amma, can you please apply some mehendi on my hand?”

 

“But Khushi, it will ruin the design that they did…”

 

“It’s not going to mess up anything, please put some on.”

 

She smiled, picking up the cone putting on a little pattern in the corner, making Khushi’s face shine.

 

“Now, my mehendi will be complete.”

 

“Can this old lady also put some on, Khushi Bitiya?”

 

“And me too, after all I am going to be your sister in law. Haq hai.”

 

They looked up to see Nani and Anjali, taking a seat by their side.

 

“Of course you can Nani, though I am not sure about Anjali.”  She smirked, looking at the frown on Anjali’s face.

 

“Whatever I don’t care, I am still going to.” Anjali took the cone Garima handed to her. “Wow, Khushi it came out so nice.”

 

Anjali and Nani both took their turn, before the others came over to see how it was coming together and wanting their turn.

 

They all giggled when Nani stopped everyone, in fear they would ruin it, and instructed the girls to come back to finish their job.

 

*****

 

“Arnav, come here and sit next to Khushi.”  Anjali yelled out for her brother, who seemed relieved to get away from socializing to sit next to his fiance.

 

“We have a little surprise for our Khushi bhabhi.” Payal said gathering Lavanya, and few of her friends.

 

Khushi and Arnav sat back as the music came on, as they watched in shock when Anjali started to dance.

 

Mehndi hai rachnewaali, haathon mein gehri laali
Kahe sakhiyaan, ab kaliyaan
Haathon mein khilnewaali hain
Tere mann ko, jeevan ko

Nayi khushiyaan milnewaali hai

 

“I can’t believe Di is dancing, and she’s pretty good.”  

 

“Yes my friend definitely knows how to dance.”

 

They both smiled throughout the performance as everyone started to dance for them. It was a wonderful touching dance, and Khushi was grateful at the hard work that went into putting it together for them.

 

Mehndi hai rachnewaali, haathon mein gehri laali
Kahe sakhiyaan, ab kaliyaan
Haathon mein khilnewaali hain
Tere mann ko, jeevan ko
Nayi khushiyaan milnewaali hai
O hariyali banno
Le jaana tujhko guiyyaan aane waale hai saiyyaan
Thaamenge aake baiyyaan, goonjegi shehnaayi
Angnaayi, angnaayi

 

The rest of the night continued with everyone dancing, eating and enjoying themselves immensely, celebrating the function to the fullest. Both families getting to know each other better, while new friendships were made, perhaps even a new jodi, all because of two people, Arnav and Khushi.

 

Though Khushi had to sit out most of the time, she was overjoyed watching everyone and meeting them as they all came over, spending a few minutes with her. And as the night started to wrap up, it meant she was finally coming closer to her happiness. Her Arnav would be hers very soon.

 

Arnav watched Khushi go through a myriad of emotions throughout the night, and he found himself going through the same even when he wasn’t physically next to her. He was touched seeing the mother and daughter moment. Her openness to include his Nani and Di for the Mehendi, made his heart swell for finding not just the right partner for him, but also for his family.  

 

But the secret glances they shared, their eyes speaking to each other, had him captivated tonight. And as he walked over to her to say goodnight before he left, the radiant smile on her face made his heart race.

 

“Hi Sweetheart,” She showed off her hands and her feet, her eyes gleaming at the design. But as she gazed at him after he sat next to her, all she wanted was to be in his arms. “Do you have to sit here for much longer?”  

 

He was concerned knowing she had been sitting here for a couple of  hours.  Looking at her stiffened posture, he wished he could rub her neck or do something to help her.

 

“No it’s almost dried, Amma will help me once you guys go home. Are you leaving now?”

 

He took a deep breath, wrapping his arm around her shoulder as she leaned up against him.

 

“For now yes, but I will see you tomorrow at my house for the Sangeet. Make sure you get some rest, and please do not wake me up at six o’clock tomorrow morning. Though I am okay with you having erotic dreams.”

 

“Well, I am hoping to have the same dream tonight. If you tell me where we are going on our honeymoon then perhaps I can tell you if it will come true.”

 

“Nice try, and you know I will make sure all your dreams come true. And if I have anything to do with it, I can bet it will happen. For now, good night and meetha, very meetha, dreams my love.”

 


 

 

 

 

 

Part 3 – The Date

Please read the note at the end regarding Blog access. Thank you!

 

 

“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.

 

“Yes Madam.”  

 

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?”

 

“What?!”

 

“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.

 

“Hello Anita.”

 

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?”

 

“Elephant?!”

 

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 🙂 

 

 

 


 

 

PLEASE READ:

 

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!

 

Love always,

Jigs

 

Part 2 – The Birds and the Bees

“Bitiya, are you ready? We don’t have much time, everyone from Shantivan will be here soon…”

 

Hearing her mother’s persistent knocking on the door, she rushed to the door, and opened it with a frown at not having gotten far with wearing the saree. At this point it should have been draped around her.

 

Garima shook her head, walking towards the bed. She couldn’t understand why her daughter had such a hard time wearing a saree after being taught on numerous occasions. Her daughter could do just about anything to perfection but wearing a saree was such an ordeal for her.

 

“Amma, why do you make me wear this when you know I don’t know how?”  She whined, wrapping her arms around her mother.  

 

“But you do know how, I have seen you wear a saree. You just need practice which is why I’m making you wear it today. Khushi, you are getting married and this is what you will be wearing at your sasural.”

 

She walked around to face her mother, before sitting down on the bed in defeat.

 

Garima smiled, caressing her daughter’s face, then took the saree in her hands unraveling the six yards of fabric. She extended her hand towards her daughter, who was downright sulking, though it changed quickly realizing she was going to help her.  

 

“You are the best, Amma.” She hugged her mother, then stood still in her blouse and petticoat.

 

Garima laughed as she began wrapping the saree around her. Her heart warmed having her Khushi back. The playful antics, the smile and the glow that adorned her face which got brighter whenever she spoke or saw her Arnav.

 

“Of course I am the best. Now pay attention, since I won’t be there the day after your shaadi when you have to wear a saree… by yourself.”

 

“Amma, if I need you, then I will tell Arnav and he will bring you there for me.  What’s the big deal?” She jokingly winked, but they both knew the truth to that statement.

 

“Pagal! You know I can’t come. What will they think? When a woman gets married things change, you will see soon enough. Your husband and his family become your priority. Did you see how I did the pleats? Now you just fold it down and tuck it inside the petticoat.”

 

Khushi nodded, paying close attention to her mother as she started working on the pallu.

 

“How long did it take you to learn to wear a saree? You make it look so easy, but it really isn’t.”

 

Garima looked up at her daughter who was intently observing her every move. She was confident that if Khushi sets her mind on something, she would accomplish it. In this moment, she could see her engrossed in this task, trying to learn every step.  

 

But she wondered how much Khushi knew about the changes in her life and relationship after marriage.

 

“It took me some time, but then I got used it, so will you. Woh, um… Khushi… do you know what happens after you get married?”

 

Khushi rolled her eyes ready for the talk about how she needed to behave like an elder bahu of the house. At this point it was all blah blah blah.

 

“Amma, that’s all you have been talking about for the past few weeks, so obviously I know.”

 

Garima smacked her daughter lightly on her arm, putting the perfectly pleated pallu on her shoulder, as Khushi handed her mother a safety pin.

 

“Not that… but, um… you know… your relationship with your husband. Things will be different.”

 

Khushi sensed the nervousness in her mother’s voice as she stuttered, and continued to stay behind her, pinning the saree to her blouse.  

 

“Different? Why would it be different between us?”

 

“Because things will change between the two of you. Now you both will sleep… um… on the same bed and…

 

Her eyes widened in surprise at the realization what her mother was referring to. She closed her eyes grateful for her mother being behind her fixing the saree.

 

For a moment silence filled the room, unsure how to continue further with the topic.  

 

Khushi smiled inwardly, wondering what her mother’s reaction would be if she knew about her and Arnav’s relationship. But she knew how inappropriate it would be, so decided to keep her mouth shut.

Garima courageously came around to face Khushi, giving her a sheepish smile, then swiftly took another safety pin, and bent down to fix the pleats at the bottom. Garima took a deep breath, then continued with the awkward topic.

 

“Things will happen between you two… and you should be ready…”

 

Khushi decided to put them both out of misery.

 

“Um… woh… Amma, I don’t  think we need to talk about this. I know what happens.”

 

Garima jerked her head up, but Khushi’s face was turned away, adjusting the saree. She stood up, not knowing what to say but grateful she didn’t have to continue. But she wanted to give her one last piece of advice on the topic. She took her hands in hers, and looked at her with a tender expression.

 

How had her little girl grown up so fast?

 

“Okay, it’s good you know. So I assume you also know what to do until you are ready to have a family? I don’t mind having grandchildren right away, actually I would love it. But I know you both are focused on your careers right now.”

 

Khushi looked at her mother in admiration for openly having this discussion.  She smiled with a slight nod at her mother, and then hugged her.

 

“Garima! Panditji is here…”

 

Hearing her husband, she pulled away, and then placed a kiss on her daughter’s forehead.  Both of them grateful for the interruption, which couldn’t have come at a better moment.

 

“Finish getting ready and come downstairs, theek hai?”

 

She nodded, and watched her mother leave the room, muttering under breath about how late it was getting.

 

Khushi couldn’t believe that her mother just gave her the birds and bees talk.

 

An hour later, Arnav stepped out of his car, and stared up at the Gupta’s house. It looked completely different from the last time he was here. The house was all decked up with strings of lights, flower garlands, and sheer fabric wrapped everywhere for their wedding. Almost like a bride. He also noticed a decorated tent covering the entire spacious backyard of the house where workers were gathered setting up tables for today’s functions.

 

After coming from his home which was decorated in a similar manner, and seeing Khushi’s home, a sudden surge of excitement rushed through him as he briskly walked towards the house with a wide smile.  

 

“Did the Puja start?” He asked, approaching Aakash who was outside on the porch holding Aditya.

 

Aakash couldn’t help but smile looking at how anxious his big brother looked, and it wasn’t because he was late for Puja, but to see Khushi. Being around the two of them whether at the office or home, he knew how much these two loved each other. And he couldn’t be happier seeing his brother settle down with someone like Khushi.

 

“Hello Bhai and Mamu… right Adi?  Wave to Mamu.”  He raised Aditya’s hand waving it back and forth.  

 

“Hello Aakash! How are you doing? Now can I go in? Aditya, come to Mamu.”

 

Arnav smiled at his nephew who started bouncing excitedly, and put his arms out to take him. But Aakash held onto him.

 

“Yeah I guess, that’s good for now. Adi was a bit cranky inside, so you go in.  Behena is waiting in there for you, I suggest you hurry up before she goes all terminator on you.”

 

He shook his head, hearing Aakash chuckle and made his way inside the house.  His eyes searched for her, but she was nowhere in sight.

 

Where could she be?

 

“Arnav is here! We can start the Puja now.”  

 

Anjali relaxed now that her brother had arrived just in time. She came up to speak with him, since no one had noticed him coming inside.

 

“I know you don’t sit in pujas but if you can at least stay here it would make Khushi and both families happy since this is for your shaadi. We already explained it to her parents.”  She whispered to him making sure no one was around.

 

He couldn’t hold back a smirk, knowing his reply was going to shock her.  

 

“Who said I am not going to sit in the Puja? I will participate, and that too with my soon to be wife right next to me. By the way where is she?”

 

Anjali stood there stunned with words failing her, as he eyed the room.  

 

“Di, snap out of it. It’s not a big deal.”

 

“Oh yes it is a big deal! You have never sat in a Puja, in fact you run from them…  hai Bhagwan, wait till Nani finds out. Does Khushi know?  Where the heck she is, I want to see her reaction to this latest miracle… Payal, where is Khushi?”

 

Anjali stopped her as she was passing by with a basket of flowers.

 

“Woh, she went upstairs to get something for Garima Auntie. Panditji needed some additional things which are in her study.”

 

Anjali nodded, and Payal walked away in a hurry as Mami was waiting for her.

 

“Oh I know that look… Arnav you are not going up there. As it is we are already late starting this Puja.”

 

“Let’s see who stops me. Don’t you think I should get a reward for sitting in the Puja? In which case you owe me this. And, I haven’t seen my fiancé for over three weeks. So, my lovely big sister if you will excuse me for a few minutes…  Oh, and keep a look out to make sure no one comes upstairs.”

 

“Fine! Now go hurry, and don’t stay up there too long.”

 

He side hugged his sister, and quietly made his way upstairs while everyone was occupied setting up for the Puja. As he approached the study, he could hear her mumbling to herself. He stood at the doorway mesmerized by the sight of her.

 

Her back faced him, as she stood on a chair stretching up to reach for a box on top of the wardrobe. Her hair was tied up in a bun, wrapped around with flowers. Her peeking back exposed what her blouse failed to cover, along with the expanse of skin along her waist. The crepe sheer saree with a beige cream on the bottom cascaded of mixed colors of pink, purple, and green bordered embroidered pallu neatly pleated and draped over her shoulder.  

 

He swallowed gazing at the slender toned beauty in front of him, overwhelmed with desire as he walked closer to her.  

 

“Hi gorgeous.”  

 

She turned around, startled to see him behind her. She swayed losing her balance, but his hand shot up gripping her waist. She sighed, placing her hand on his shoulder, and steadied herself on the chair.

 

“Can you tell me what you are doing? There are so many people downstairs that could have gotten whatever it is you needed from up there. What if you got hurt?”

 

He shook his head in frustration, and helped her get down from the chair. But that faded away, calming his nerves when she wrapped her arms around him.  

 

“You’re finally here, I have missed you so much.”  She whispered softly.

 

She stared at him, as her hand caressed his face, taking in his tired appearance.  The fatigue, exhaustion, visible on his face after working non-stop for the past few weeks, along with his long flight.

 

He took her hand in his, and placed a gentle kiss.

 

“Sweetheart, you have no idea how I have lived the past few weeks without you, and this…” He leaned down as his body ached with the need to touch her, kiss her. He smiled when she slightly titled waiting for him to kiss her.

 

Finally their lips touched with a gentle caress, but with time against them that changed into a deep, passionate kiss. Both of unleashing themselves in a long awaited kiss filling in for lost time.  

 

They pulled away for much needed air, and he held on tight wrapping his arms around her while they steadied their uneven breathing.

 

“We need to go back downstairs before Amma comes searching for me.”

 

“I know… ouch…”  

 

He jerked his hand away, slowly taking a few steps back.  

 

“Baby, what happened?”  She looked up at him, and then towards his hand with concern.

 

“You’re just too hot to handle, that’s all.”  He smiled mischievously and winked, then climbed on the chair to retrieve the box she was attempting to get down.

 

“Now that was one cheesy pick up line, but I like it. And I would say you look very hot as well…”

 

She took the box from his hand, as he got down off the chair.  

 

He was dressed semi-casually in a black textured blazer, paired with fitted gray stripe shirt and jeans. A look she loved on him.

 

“KHUSHI! Hurry, the puja is starting…”

 

Both of them smirked, hearing her mother yelling at the bottom of the staircase.

 

“Coming Amma!”

 

A few moments later, Khushi was downstairs standing next to her parents getting ready for the puja to start.  

 

Anjali sighed in relief when Arnav came down in time. And luck was on her brother’s side since no one had noticed him amidst the preparations. But she was happy for both of them getting a few minutes together.  Khushi’s face glowing, as was his. No doubt Arnav got his prize judging from the smile on his face.

 

“Arnav Bitwa, when did you arrive? I didn’t see you come in.” Shashi spoke up when he spotted him. He looked over at Garima, as Arnav approached them, bending to take their blessings. They both placed their hands on his head, and he stood up.

 

“Sorry, I am late, but my meeting ran late yesterday which delayed my arrival here. How are you both?”

 

“Now that your are here, we are all happy and can truly start the celebrations. Can I get you something to eat or drink before the Puja gets started, beta?” Garima spoke in one breath, overwhelmed seeing her future son in law.

 

“No, thank you Auntie. I am fine for now. Hi Nani!”   

 

Arnav pulled his Nani into an embrace, her gaze clouded with varied emotions.  He shook his head and wiped the tears from her eyes. Anjali came over and placed her hands on Nani’s shoulders, pushing her own tears back.  It was a sentimental moment for the both of them, who never imagined a time when Arnav would participate in a Puja.

 

Khushi’s heart warmed at seeing them together, and she walked up behind her mother putting her arms around her as they watched the trio.

 

“Nani, Auntie, should we start the Puja? Where should I sit?” Arnav asked.

 

“Garima ji… Chote and Khushi Bitiya will sit together and perform the Ganesh Puja. You can sit there, Chote.”  She gestured towards the sitting area where the Panditji was getting the havan ready.  

 

Khushi gasped softly, and raised her eyebrow at him. He nodded, and took her hand helping her to sit, then sat down next to her.  

 

“You don’t have to do this, everyone understands.”  She whispered, leaning closer to him.

 

“I know, but I want to for you and our family.” He smiled.

 

She nodded, then squeezed his hand, before letting go as the Puja began.

 

Throughout the Puja, Khushi prayed there would be no obstacles during their wedding. And thanked Ganesh for bringing Arnav into her life. All she wanted was happiness for him and their families who were all eager to see them married.

 

After the Puja and Aarti were over, the family all gathered for lunch which had been set-up outside. Khushi introduced Arnav to her Buaji, who was here from Lucknow, along with some other distant relatives that were keen on meeting her future husband.  

 

Khushi was afraid it might be overwhelming for Arnav to meet everyone. But he surprised her with his polite social skills, working his charm on everyone.  

 

“Khushi, I am hungry. Can we please eat?”  He asked feeling light headed, once he met with everyone from both sides.

 

“Hai Devi Maiya!  I am so sorry, you probably haven’t eaten today. Why didn’t you say anything earlier? Stupid me for not realizing. Did you take your medicine?” Khushi panicked looking at his pale face, and touched his forehead.  

 

“Relax, Sweetheart, I am okay. I just need to eat something.” He could feel it taking its toll on his body, and cursed himself for not eating earlier. But he didn’t want to come across rude meeting everyone. Most of all he didn’t want to worry Khushi.

 

“Arnav, you don’t look well! Anjali… Anjali…”  

 

He sighed when she waved for his sister to come over, aware of the dramatics these two were going to start now.  

 

“What happened, Khushi? Arnav, are you okay?” She tried to stay calm seeing Khushi distressed. And looking at her brother’s weakened demeanor she knew he wasn’t feeling well. She placed her hand on his shoulder.

 

“Can you please take him to sit down, while I get him some food.”

 

Anjali nodded taking her brother to sit at an empty table. He took off his blazer and folded his sleeves, before he sat down. He felt his body temperature rise, but couldn’t make out if it was the heat or something else.

 

“This is a first, my sister is not panicking or lecturing me about me not taking care of myself. Sorry, it’s been hectic the past few weeks, since I was trying to wrap up things at AR to take a few weeks off in peace. And I forgot to eat today.”  He sighed heavily admitting his negligence.

 

She shook her head in annoyance, listening to his explanation.

 

Chote… yes right now you deserve me to call you that. You see her…” She pointed towards Khushi, as they turned their attention to her.  

 

Khushi frantically pushed past ahead of a few people, ignoring anyone that approached her as she made his plate. Concern and impatience seeped through her as she kept her eye on him.

 

“… so as I was saying. Every time you pull a stunt like this, that is how she will get. Arnav, once you are married you are responsible for her well being. Her seeing you like this is going to make her worried and stressed, which isn’t good for her either. And I know my little brother doesn’t want his Khushi upset. Do you get the point I am trying to make?”

 

He nodded, knowing Khushi bears the consequences of his actions when he doesn’t take care of himself.

 

“Good! Now I no longer have to worry with her by your side. Did you take your medicine?”

 

He shook his head, then reached into his blazer and took out the packet of pills he had placed there earlier before rushing here to make it on time.

 

Anjali wanted to strangle him for being irresponsible. But she imagined in all this madness with no one on his back it would have slipped his mind. She would have to make sure to stay on top of him until the wedding was over.

 

Khushi hurried over, and took a seat next to him as she placed his lunch along with a bottle of water in front of him. When she spotted the medicine on the table, she swore under her breath which didn’t go unnoticed by the two people, intently watching her every move.

 

She picked up the packet, popped the pill, then placed it in his hand.  He put the pill in his mouth immediately, drinking the water she handed to him.

 

Before she could say anything, he began to eat. Khushi crossed her arms across her chest, then relaxed back in her chair. But her heart ached to see him this way. She knew him well by now to know he was trying to stay strong despite him not feeling well. She blamed herself for being away from AR, knowing the long hours he must have been putting in her absence. He always was good with eating proper meals on time, but that must have been put aside with the flight and puja.

 

“The food is delicious. Let me guess, Khushi must have picked out the menu, am I right?”

 

“Well obviously, who else in my family knows your favorite food? And I know what you are trying to do… you are so lucky right now that everyone is here otherwise I would give you a piece of my mind. What were you thinking?  Forget it, you weren’t thinking…  please now eat properly, then you are going home with Aakash so you can rest.” She bit out, irritable that he was being nonchalant about this. She called out for Aakash, who walked towards them with Shyam and Aditya.  

 

Anjali sat back amused, ready to watch these two go at it.

 

“Khushi, I am fine. Don’t make this into a big issue. Please no one needs to know, especially Nani.” He continued to finish his lunch as she glared at him.

 

“Lover’s quarrel already, but bhai just got here… okay, nevermind.”  

 

Arnav gave him a pointed stare as Aakash put his hands up and took a seat next to Khushi. Shyam felt the tension at the table as he sat down next to his wife and handed his son over to her who was ready for his nap.

 

“Aakash, once Arnav is done eating, can you please take him home and make sure he gets rest? The Roka is an hour, and he is not supposed to be here for that.”

 

Aakash nodded.

 

Arnav ignored everyone around him as they talked about the upcoming function. He continued to finish the last few bites on his plate. The food and medicine doing there work, as he felt better. But he knew that was not going to be enough to convince Khushi.

 

“Anjali, it looks like Adi is falling asleep…”  Shyam leaned over to help Anjali adjust the baby from her shoulder.

 

“We can put him in the pack n play. Can you bring it downstairs from Khushi’s room?” Anjali asked, cradling him in her arms.

 

“No need. I will take him up with me to Khushi’s room so I can rest. Plus Di, it’s noisy and warm out here. Give me him…”

 

They all stared at Arnav, as he stood up and went to Anjali. He leaned down, gently taking Adi out of her arms, and rocked him back to sleep.

 

Anjali and Khushi knew there was no stopping or reasoning with Arnav at this point. Both relieved to see him eat properly and ready to go relax. Khushi sighed and then followed him inside the house, making their way upstairs to her room.  

 

Arnav placed the baby down in the pack n play, and covered him with his blanket. She watched how natural he was with Aditya, which often surprised her since he was rarely around babies.  

 

He walked over to the edge of the bed, and watched as she rummaged through a suitcase in the corner. Finding what she was looking for, she walked back to him.  He took her arms and pulled her closer, wrapping his arms around her neck.

 

“That was a bad move on my part not taking care of myself. But I promise it won’t happen again.”  He placed a gentle kiss on her lip, and then pressed his forehead against hers.

 

She nodded, giving him a small smile.

 

“I don’t like seeing you that way. It’s not good for you when you ignore your health. But now please, for me, take it easy. Here you can change into this t-shirt, and lounge pants. I bought these for you last week when I went shopping with the girls. I know how much you love to wear clothes when you sleep.” She grinned, raising her eyebrow making the mood lighter as they pulled away, handing the clothes to him.

 

“Right, since you would know what I wear and don’t in bed.  Though it has been six very long weeks.”

 

“Shhh, besharam, the baby is here. Now get some rest, and if my chotu bachu wakes up call one of us.”

 

He chuckled seeing the blush on her face, and avoiding his gaze.

 

“He is sleeping, and has no clue what I am talking about. But I won’t keep you up here, you should go back down.”

 

Smiling, she turned away and left the room, closing the door behind her.

 

The Roka ceremony began an hour later, with more guests arriving for the function. Mami commenced the ceremony by giving shagun to Khushi followed by Anjali, Payal, Lavanya, along with other family and close friends.

 

Khushi blushed at the comments directed towards her from the women about married life. Especially Mamiji, who she met recently after arriving in Delhi, taking the opportunity to openly talk about what to expect from her soon to be husband. They got along well, though at times Mamji could be rather outlandish and vocal. But Khushi knew she was harmless. Everyone gave her advice, along with their blessings for the next hour.

 

Anjali frequently provided Khushi with updates about Arnav to keep her calm. Adi and him were both sleeping peacefully. Both stunned, uncle and nephew could sleep through the noise and commotion in the house.  

 

Everyone was gathered in and out of the house, once the Shagun was handed out and the ceremony was concluded with tea and snacks being served.  

 

And the timing couldn’t be perfect, as Arnav walked downstairs refreshed holding a bubbly smiling Aditya in his arms.

 

Khushi’s face lit up, hearing them laughing and from the looks of it Arnav was back to his normal self. She sighed in relief, knowing he was feeling better.

 

She stood back, watching his family and her parents rush over to him one by one and ensure he was doing well.  

 

She could feel his burning gaze on her as she moved around the main living area with Payal and Lavanya as they gathered the shagun to place it inside her parents room.

 

Needless to say, she wasn’t surprised when he followed her to the room when she went in alone. She mentally counted backwards in her head, hearing the door close.

 

“Mr. Raizada, you are so predictable.” She smirked without looking back, placing the jewelry boxes in the armoire.

 

He leaned back against the door, walking over to her, as she turned.

 

“Soon to be Mrs. Raizada, I take any opportunity that comes my way to see you… alone. And seeing you walking around in this saree, looking extremely sexy, I couldn’t resist. Do you have any idea what I want to do to you right now?”  He moved closer to her, placing his arms around her waist and pulled her close to his body.  

 

She let out a soft moan as her hands slammed up against his chest. She stared up at him, her heart pounding against her chest as his grip tightened around her waist.  

 

“Arnav…” She shivered, feeling his hand go inside her saree as his scorching fingers caressed her waist.  

 

Seeing the passion in her eyes, reflecting his own, reminded him of how much he missed being with her. The pull they both shared, left him wanting more. He knew they couldn’t be alone too much longer, with everyone outside. But he needed some alone time with her.

 

Khushi, go out with me tomorrow night for dinner. Just, you and me.”

 

He could hear Lavanya and Payal’s laughter coming closer as they were headed towards the room. But he refused to leave until she said yes.

 

“Baby, how can I?” She pleaded.  

 

“Oh but you can. The last time I checked there is nothing going on tomorrow evening that requires us to be around. I would like to take my fiancé out to dinner.”

 

She startled, hearing the knock on the door and tried to get out of his arms.

 

“Khushi, open the door…”  Payal said softly.

 

“Until you say yes, I am not opening this door. Do you want everyone to find out we’re in here… alone.

 

“You… um… fine, yes!”

 

“That’s my girl!”

 

He leaned down, and she gasped as he placed a kiss on her lips. She stood still with her mouth wide open, when he pulled away getting ready to open the door.

 

He opened it to find Payal and Lavanya leaning up against the door trying to listen in. But seeing him, they quickly steadied themselves.

 

“Ladies, you may go in now.” He smirked, as they looked away nonchalantly. He turned back to find Khushi standing there dazed, still staring at him. “Thank you for the meetha, Ms. Gupta!” He winked at her, turning around to walk out in the living area.

 

He figured this stunt was going to cost him, but it didn’t matter. Afterall she agreed to go out with him. That was enough to get him through today sharing her amongst the guests gathered outside.

 

A date… just his Khushi and him.

 


 

 

 

 


 

 

Thank you for accepting the invite, hope you enjoyed the update. Part 3 will be posted Monday afternoon, see you then!

Part 1 – The Invitation

 

Delhi

 

“Khushi Singh Raizada.”

 

Arnav whispered, looking out the window from his private jet as it began its descent towards Delhi.  

 

He looked down at his ring and smiled, brushing his finger over it. A ring that his now fiancé had placed on his finger a little over six weeks ago when they were engaged. And now they were going to be married in five days.

 

Arnav Singh Raizada was getting married to the woman he loved more than life itself. A woman that made him do the unthinkable. Who would have thought that ASR could pull off his engagement the way he had? But he had, for her. It was solely to see the happiness on her face, and selfishly, he wanted to make Khushi officially his forever. Sooner, rather than later.

 

He had started planning the engagement prior to going to Delhi for a business trip couple of months back. First he had needed blessings from the two women who meant everything to him, his Nani and Di. That was easy since they were already eager to make Khushi part of our family. His family adored Khushi, and had already accepted her even before they knew about their relationship. The hardest part had been to convince her parents. More so her father than her mother. But, after they spent a few days together it gave them a chance to get closer for the one person that bound them together. He had left Delhi with their blessings, and was determined to be engaged in a couple of weeks.

 

But luck wasn’t on his side when he came back to find Sameer was in their life. At first he was thinking about holding off until the matter was solved. But there was no way he was going to allow Sameer to come in between their happiness. He decided to continue with his plan, making all the arrangements for their engagement, party and all, without her finding out. At the same time they worked on closing out the chapter of Sameer from their lives. Once and for all.

 

The engagement turned out exactly how he had envisioned it and more. It was a special day, and seeing her reaction throughout the day brought him immense pleasure.

 

But the wedding and all the rituals that came along with the package was all hers to decide and plan based on what she desired. He knew women had dreams growing up about their weddings, so he gave her full reign and sat back unless she needed his input. He didn’t believe in all of the rituals that her and both of their families planned for the next few days, but he would happily participate for her.

 

The only thing he was taking care of was their honeymoon. And he couldn’t wait to take his new wife away to paradise where it would only be the two of them for seven days.

 

“Wife.”  

 

He smiled at the way that sounded off his lips.

 

A few moments after the jet landed, he turned on his phone and instantly pushed the button that would connect them in matter of seconds.

 

“Am I speaking with the soon to be Mrs. Raizada.”  

 

After a sixteen hour flight all he wanted was to hear her voice, but all he heard was chaos in the background when she picked up the phone, mumbling an abrupt ‘hold on’.  

 

He made his way off the jet waiting for her to say something. A moment later, when she finally did speak, it was just as he had expected.  

 

“It’s still Ms. Gupta to you Mr. Raizada! I assume you just landed. Seriously, who comes five days before their own wedding. Here I have been running around like a crazy person for our shaadi, while lucky you gets to work. And, today is the Ganesh Puja and our Roka, and you are getting here now?!  Do you have any idea what I have been going through?”  

 

She frantically spoke in one breath, walking up to her bedroom after her mother’s final warning. His family was supposed to be arriving shortly for the puja to kick off the ceremonies for the wedding. And they were far from ready to host them.

 

“Deep breath, Sweetheart. If I knew this is how you were going to get, then I swear we would have eloped.”

 

She raised her eyebrow, with a slow smirk curving her mouth, walking inside her bedroom, then closing the door.

 

“Is it too late? Now that you are finally here- how about I sneak out and we go to the mandir? All we need is sindoor, mangalsutra, saat phere, and BAM… we are married. What do you think?”

 

His laughter soared through the phone, making her burst into laughter at the thought of how absurd she sounded. But things had been out of control since their engagement six weeks back.

 

She decided to multi task putting the phone on speaker, then proceeded to get undressed. She smiled seeing her mother had her clothes and jewelry ready, laid out on the bed. Now all she needed to do was get ready, but looking at the saree she knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

 

“I think that’s a brilliant idea. How about I pick you up in an hour?”

 

“You and I both know the consequences if we did that, though it would be amusing to see the reaction from our family. Okay baby, I have to get changed before Amma comes in here and dresses me herself. Are you coming straight here or going home to get ready?”

 

He walked out of the terminal feeling the Delhi heat in contrast to the cold weather he left behind in New York. After spotting Bala, his driver, he took quick strides towards the car. He looked at his watch mentally swearing for already running late for the puja.

 

“Actually I am going to Shantivan first, but I promise to be there soon. I just wanted to hear your voice and inform you that I had landed. I can’t wait to see your beautiful face. It’s been way too long.”

 

“Three weeks and two days to be exact. Please hurry up, I am waiting.” She sighed, putting the phone close to her chest after they hung up.

 

“Finally, he is here!” She squealed in excitement, jumping up and down in her room.

 

It had been weeks since they had seen each other, and now that he was here, all she wanted was to be in his arms.

 

How things had changed after their engagement. The inseparable couple was forced to go their separate ways. He went to his penthouse alone that night, while she went to her apartment with her parents.

 

It had been tough staying away while she was in New York, but at the same time he was supportive and respectful with her parents around.   

 

He had forced her to take a few days off from work right after the engagement to spend time with her parents. Arnav had also ensured her workload was cut back, taking it all on himself to give her time with their family to plan their wedding after the engagement.

 

They both decided to get married on New Year’s Eve with the wedding ceremony taking place after midnight. A new beginning of their relationship as husband and wife, with a new year.  

 

Both families were thrilled with the idea, but had wished for the wedding to take place back home in Delhi. They had happily agreed to respect their wishes. All that mattered was they were getting married.

 

She smiled, thinking about their argument when he mentioned she should go to Delhi with their families with only him staying back in New York. They went back and forth, but in the end he won since one of them needed to be in Delhi to overlook the arrangements. And since he took care of the engagement, it was her turn now to handle their shaadi preparations.

 

Khushi took a deep breath, looking at the wallpaper on her phone. A picture of them looking into each other’s eyes from their engagement party. She whispered.  

 

“I can’t believe that in matter of days, I will become, Khushi Singh Raizada.”

 

 


 

 

 

 


 

 

This kicks off the Shaadi Special as our favorite jodi from Stripped, Arnav and Khushi, embark on their journey to wedded bliss. Hoping you all will accept the invitaion to join me here for an eight part short story.

As always, Thank you for being here!

Love always,

Jigs