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Valley of Flowers ' Chapter 9
Mansion was resplendent with lights, shimmery curtains and flowersadorning its
walls, on the night of Diwali. A huge rangoli lined with diyas adorned the
floor of the foyer providing a glowing welcome to guests who would arrive for
the Diwali party.
entire Raizada family stood in the living room along with the Malhotras,
Lavanya and NK.
Khushi walked down the stairs, Arnav lifted his head automatically sensing her
before everyone else. She was stunning. Her
milky white skin glowed against the red saree -- a red georgette with a gold and bronze zari
border and a brocade blouse in red, bronze and gold threads.His heartbeat began
its erratic rhythm as he realized this was the same saree she worefive years
ago ' the very first time he had seen her in a saree.
there was a difference in the way she looked then and now. Earlier if she was
gracefully willowy ' now -- she looked utterly sensual. Her breasts and hips were fuller, making her waist look
even tinier making him want to wrap his hands around it. But what surprised him
was that she managed to look innocent and demure as though she was unaware of
her own sensuality, her career in showbiz notwithstanding. Her long and
lustrous black hair fell like a water fall down her back, swaying as she walked
with the grace of a dancer. The dozen red bangles on her right hand slid
downward as she lifted her hand to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, in an
unconscious gesture. He knew most of the male guests' attention was riveted on
her but he noted with satisfaction that her eyes were drawn to him.
almost took an unconscious step toward her, when he saw NK walking to the base
of the stairs to take her hand. He fisted his hands at his side, his jaw
hardening as a barely controlled temper simmered in his brown eyes.
eyes clouded as reality hit her with a force. NK! NK was offering his hand but
her own handrefused to comply. She made an excuse that her hand was dirty.
don't know why Khushi behaves like a prude,' Lavanya muttered under her breath.
'As if she couldn't have given NK her hand.'
traditional Indian women are not prone to giving their hand to any Tom, Dick or
Harry.' Arnav retorted trying to keep his tone as neutral as possible.
on Arnav, she is almost engaged to him.'
key word here is almost Lavanya.' He
we get to see your performance today dear?' Mrs Malhotra asked Khushi as she
and NK joined their group.
Mrs Malhotra.' NK said regretfully.
bitiya has taken on the burden of making all the arrangements for this party.'
Naniji explained. 'I didn't want her to tire herself further.'
even made the rangoli you all saw in the foyer.' Anjali supplied.
couldn't have done without your help Di.' She and Anjali had painstakingly made
the rangoli the previous night, amidst laughter while she regaled anecdotes
from her stint at her TV show. Arnav had joined them a little while earlier to
fix a small fault in the wiring for the serial lights and they had hung out
together like old times.
am sure Khushi could manage a small itsy-bitsy performance.' NK said jovially.
don't you do something when so many people are asking?'Mamiji's tone was
have never seen Khushiji's performance.' Shyam added to Khushi's woe.
spoke up. 'I am afraid Khushi will not be able to perform tonight.' Everyone
including Khushi looked at him expectantly, 'We have a meeting scheduled with a
client and I need her to be present.'
on Diwali?' Mamiji asked suspiciously.
'There is no Diwali in the US Mamiji,' Anjali
little later, as Khushi stood in the kitchen making sure the snacks for the
evening was ready to be served, she heard someone come into the kitchen. She
knew it had to be Arnav.
you expect me to thank you for little stunt you pulled out there, you can
not? It was no thanks to your kiss-ass almost
say that!'Khushi's khol-lined almond eyes flashed at him in anger.
or almost fianc ? What are you objecting to?' His smirk was beginning to
you just leave me alone? I don't need your help. I am perfectly capable of
handling my own issues.'
He walked away leaving he all alone in the kitchen.
welled up in Khushi's eyes as she quietly put the snacks into plates. Earlier
in the evening, as she had finished dressing and looked herself in the mirror
she had been shocked to see that she had worn the same saree she had worn five
years ago. She knew that she had unconsciously dressed for Arnav. When she had
come down the stairs, she had sought him out in the crowd, her heart beating
its erratic dhak-dhak when she found him looking at her with those mesmerizing
one could look more handsome than him in a chocolate brown shirt and dark blue
denim. The shirt fit taut on his wide shoulders and muscular chest while two of
the buttonswere undoneto reveal a wee bit of his chest hair. His hair was still
brushed back but some errant locks had fallen over his forehead making her want
to run her hand through his thick tresses. Then NK had come into focus with his
hand extended toward her bringing her out of her day dream. Reality had set in.
was supposed to be dressing for NK and not for Arnav. She was going to marry NK
-- not Arnav.
because NK had been completely caught up with work in the past few days, it
didn't mean she could forget that he was the one she was going to marry. The
last few days she had spent with Arnav had completely thrown her off balance. It just wouldn't do.
spent the next hour making sure the Malhotra's were comfortable as per NK's
request. He told her that Vishal Malhotra had most likely made a decision
regarding who he was going to appoint to head the project and he was extremely
nervous. But however much she tried, Ria had made it a point to join Lavanya in
at dinner, Vishal Malhotra made the big announcement that the post belonged to
NK as Arnav had turned down the offer. Then he looked at Arnav. 'I hope you
will still help us as an external consultant if there is a need Arnav.'
course Vishal uncle.' Arnav replied his mood a little sombre.
NK,' Mrs Malhotra said looking at him. 'Now that you have your promotion, when
is the wedding going to be?'
please!' Ria admonished.
alright Ria,' Mamiji said giving an artificial smile, 'Akash is well on his way
to recovery. I don't think the wedding date is too far.'
congratulations and applause, Khushi heart began to hurt like someone was
squeezing it. She sensed Arnav eyes on her but refused to look at him, afraid
he would be able to see what she was feeling right now.
stepped out into the garden for a breath of fresh air when NK came up to her.
I am sorry I haven't been able to spend time with you. But it all paid off,
don't you see?' he exclaimed. 'Finally I have got what I wanted Khushi! I
really worked hard for this.'
knew that he had always taken his position at VM for granted, constantly
complaining to her about the work load. He had never imagined he would have to
fight for the promotion one day. He had only been driven to work like this
after Arnav had entered the scene. Even now, Mr Malhotra had made it clear that
NK had been given the project only because Arnav had rejected it. As usual NK
refused to acknowledge the reality.
Nanheji.' Khushi smiled feeling happy for his success.
your sweet smile is not going to suffice Khushi,' NK said and put his hands on
her shoulders bring her closer.
someone will see us,' Khushi protested in alarm.
cares? I have every right!' He snaked his arms around her and hugged her. To
the onlooker it would have looked a very passionate embrace, only Khushi
couldn't control the sick feeling inside her; she felt violated. Hey Devi
Maiyya how was she going to endure marriage to this man when she couldn't even bear
his mere touch?
there was a note of faint annoyance in NK's tone. 'You can't freeze up like this
every time I try to touch you. There is nothing wrong in this. I love you and
we will be getting married.'
hard for me to show my emotions.' Khushi said feeling really low.
you showed them to someone once.' NK pointed out insultingly.
knew you would finally get round to saying that,' Khushi said bitterly. 'I
should never have told you.'
am sorry Khushi.' NK said quickly. 'Let's forget I said all that, ok?' He
smiled as he put a hand around her shoulders, a flag of ownership, and walked
her slowly back to the house.
an electric sense of expectancy Khushi looked up at Arnav's bedroom to window,
to see him watching them. Her face flushed and her heart gave a sudden painful
little later, Khushi went up to Payal's room to ask her if she needed anything
and found her parents and Buaji seated there talking to her. Her Amma and
Babuji were engrossed with little Ashu but Buaji went up and closed the door to
she said in her gruff voice. Both her parents looked up a little worried look
on their faces.
'It will do you good not to forget that you
are almost as good as engaged to Nandakisore.'
course Buaji.' Khushi said wondering what Buaji was hinting at.
keep away from Arnav Singh Raizada!' Buaji came directly to the point. 'I do
not want what happened five years ago to repeat now. Do you understand? If
Akash bitwa wasn't so unwell we would never have allowed you to stay in the
same house as Arnav Singh Raizada.
re Nandakisore! I still cannot forget the day his mother came to our house and
insulted us -- all because of you.'
please!'Shahshi implored his sister and then turned to look at his younger
daughter with sad eyes.
is not appropriate to close the doors like this in Payal's in-laws house.' Garima
looked at her brother and his wife. 'Alright, alright. Don't tell me I didn't
looked at Khushi, 'Khushi knows that we have given our word to Manoramaji.'
Khushi stepped out of Payal's room, she ran up to the terrace needing to escape.
She stood looking at the aerials bursting into brilliant colours and remembered
the last time she had stood exactly in the same spot five years ago. Nothing
much had changed since then. She had been hurt and angry even that night.
Lavanya had apologized
to her profusely after having received a lashing from Arnav about the temple
incident. But she had come back again begging for her help. This time her would
be mother-in-law had asked her to draw a grand rangoli for Diwali that was around
As usual Lavanya had
left her to her own devices, and as she sat making the huge rangoli, Arnav had
come up to her. She remembered how nervous she was while Arnav sat next to her
watching her with those mesmerising eyes. Then he had moved her hair from her
eyes, his finger lingering on the curve of her cheek, 'Thank you.' he whispered
At her questioning look
he said, 'For taking care of me when I was sick.'
'That was the least I
could do for saving my life.' She had whispered completely flustered.
Just then Anjali joined
them breaking the moment as she offered to help her finish the rangoli.
On the night of the
Diwali party, she was performing to the song Radha Kaise Na Jale from the movie
Lagaan. She wore a deep purple long net sleeved choli with a dark pink lehnga,
with a patch of the deep purple just above the wide silver and gold border of
the lehenga. Her chunri was shaded with a combination of purple and pink.
As she danced, she felt
like exactly like the character who had danced to this song in the movie. She
felt a deep jealousy envelope her entire being as she saw Lavanya dressed in
all her finery, cozying up to Arnav. He seemed to be enjoying her attention as
well. He looked dapper in his short close collared white sherwani on black
slacks. Why was he behaving like this all of a sudden?
After the song came to
an end, she hurriedtoward the guest room not wanting to run into Arnav and
Lavanya. She got into the bathroom so she could change back into her saree.Just
as she was done and had opened the bathroom door a little, she heard voices and
she thought she heard her name.
'Sharada, your son
hasn't taken his eyes off Khushi all evening,' Mrs Kashyap said irritation
evident in her voice.
'What are you talking
about Sumi?' Mrs Raizada seemed to be surprised. 'Isaw him with Lavanya all
'My daughter might be
hanging on his arm but his eyes were elsewhere.'
'Look Sumi,' Sharada Raizada
said in a firm tone, 'Arnav is young and his eyes might wander here and there
but that doesn't mean anything.'
'Have you spoken to him
about Lavanya yet?' Mrs Kashyap had the desperate tone of a girl's mother.
'All in good time. I
wanted Lavanya and him to get to know each other first. I know my son. He
doesn't like anything forced on him.'
'Sharada, if I were you
I would keep an eye on Khushi.' Mrs Kashyap warned her.
'Don't worry about
Khushi. My son will never go for a low-class girl like her. He will do as I
Making sure the women
had left the room, Khushi slowly came out of the bathroom. She couldn't go back
into the living room right now. She ran up the stairs and into the terrace,
tears streaming down her cheeks. She deserved all this and more for dreaming
about Arnav, she thought to herself as she stood looking at the aerial
fireworks light up the night sky. Nothing was lost. It was just a silly
infatuation from her side. She could forget him and move on.
Arnav stood looking at
Khushi from the entrance of the terrace. Earlier this evening as he stood
talking to Lavanya, he sensed her presence and turned around just in time to
see her walk in with her sister. His heartbeat had stopped for a moment when he
saw that she was wearing a saree.
It was the first time he was seeing her in a
saree and that too in his favourite colour -- red. Her long hair was braided
and adorned with jewels along its entire length.With gold and red bangles on
her wrists and matching necklace and earrings, she almost looked like a bride.
An odd sensation had overtaken his heart and mind, shaking him up to his very
core.He needed some time away from her.That's why he had been avoiding her all
evening. But he couldn't any longer. He had to meet her.
As she stoodlooking up
at the cataclysmic explosion of fiery colours in the night sky, Arnav came and
stood next to her. When she sensed his presence, she made a move to walk away
from him, her whole body clinking with the sound of bangles and her payals.
Suddenly Khushi felt a tug. Arnav had caught hold of her braid.
'Let me go Arnavji.'
He pulled her closer
until she stood right in front of him. She refused to look at him.
'I am sorry.' He
whispered in her ear.
She flashed her eyes at
him turning her face a little sideways. 'What for?'
'You know.' He said
'No I don't!' Khushi
'So you are not angry
about me spending all evening with Lavanya?' he tightened his hold on her
'Why should I care who
you spend time with?' she said nonchalantly.
'It doesn't matter to
you?' His voice was dangerously low.
'No it doesn' !' Khushi
exclaimed emphatically, 'I don't care!'
Arnav suddenly grabbed
her bare waist, turned her around and pulled her flush against himself and
brought his lips down smack against hers.
Time stood still for
Khushi as she felt her insides burst into fiery sparkles very similar to what
she had viewed in the sky a little while earlier. She clutched at his shoulder
and held on for dear life.
Arnav knew he had lost
control the moment his lips touched her velvety soft ones. He slid his tongue
in between her lips caressingthe inside of her upper lip with a feather light touch
forcing her to open her mouth to him with a gasp. He let go of her braid to cup
his fingers around the back of her delicate swan like neck.
When his tongue entered
her mouth Khushi stiffened in shock but he tightened his hold on her waist and
pulled her further into this hardness. As his tongue explored the warm recesses
of her mouth, Khushi's head began to swim, her entire body quivering as heat pooled
in the pit of her stomach.
When he felt her knees
buckle he finally lifted his head to look down at her dazed face, her breath
coming fast and light. She immediately snaked her hand around his neck and hid
her face in its crook.
'Khushi, are you
alright?' Arnav asked her softly, holding her in his arms, as her breathing
calmed down a little later. He held her by her shoulder and gently moved her
away to face him.'Khushi?' his caramel eyes filled with concern.
She couldn't bear the
tenderness in his voice. She tore herself away and ran, SharadaRaizada's cruel words
piercing through the haze --- "My son would never go for a low-class girl like
would have never have pegged you down for a trophy wife but you seem to
adapting yourself to this new role very well. I guess you finally realized that
following a career in dance is not very lucrative.' Arnav said behind her
bringing her out of her reverie.
are you doing here?' she said turning around sharply.
are in a meeting remember?' he joked.
what's with the sour face? You should be happy that your fianc got the coveted
project.' he goaded her.
you come to collect your price?' She asked scathingly.
remember.' He smirked.
You seemed very free with your favour a while back.' He said sarcasm lacing his
and I are going to be married!' She shot back angrily.
the men you exploit through your beauty! Doesn't the fool know you don't love
you know?' she flung at him recklessly, desperate to wound as she was being
one movement he twisted her arms behind her back and pulled her flush against
him. 'Don't provoke me Khushi.'
do you want Arnav?' She knew what he wanted with a certainty ' a lifetime of
it,' he said reading her eyes.
can't force such a thing.'
forcing?' He put his hand under her chin and held it there. 'Whatever we felt
Khushi, got twisted, but the excitement is still there. You are as beautiful
and destructive as you ever, only this time I know what I am in for.'
Arnav!' she protested.
not? If you hadn't followed your path to glory, if you hadn't shown yourself a
heartless little adventuress, my mother might still be alive today.'
She tried to turn her head, but his fingers were locked around her jaw.
know you had me fooled?' Arnav went on. 'I thought we had something special. I
thought you were the most remarkable girl in the world. Your beauty, your gift,
your compassion, your intelligence, your innocent exuberance. I was oblivious
to everything that was deceitful in you --your cruel streak. My mother warned
me about you.'
a mother can never go wrong.' Khushi
I can see why you have so many fans Khushi. You are a wonderful actress.'
have your mother to thank for that!'
blood surged even before he tightened his hold on her arm and pulled her to him
and though she arched herself backwards he found her mouth. Khushi's own anger
surged and she took a handful of his hair with her free hand, pulling hard. Her
action only egged him to grab a handful of her hair to hold her firmly as he deepened
his kiss, sending a jolt through her body, the passion so ecstatic she could no
longer hold herself from opening her mouth to invite the invasion of his tongue
and experience the familiar rapture. Arnav
-- there could be no other for her. It was like the last five years had melted
devoured her mouth under his, then began to explore it very thoroughly drinking
from her like a thirsty man in a desert.
was sliding into a feverish, drowning state. Why should one man move her
want you.' He whispered lifting his head after what seemed like an eternity.
breathing had intensified, breasts heaving up and down, lips parted as if she
were taking air through her mouth.
know you want me too,' he said, his caramel eyes deep and intoxicating on hers.
She knew he was going to kiss her again, but could not move to stop him. She
had expected his kiss to be aggressive, abrasive ' like the previous one, instead,
it was tender and slow ' a purely sensual assault ' as he took his time to make
love to her mouth.
his hand sought her breast, sliding under her pallu, in the achingly familiar
way, heat pooled in her core and she wanted to scream with frustration her head
ringing with her own incoherent cries.
challenge me Khushi,' Arnav said harshly as he let her go suddenly. It was
ravishment without release, a mind-bending, flesh throbbing punishment. She
winced in pain as she rubbed her arm where he had held her.
me see that!' He tried to look her bruise, but she snatched her hand back
you don't have to worry about that. I am used to it remember?' It's the bruise in my heart that won't heal.
think using force will gain you everything you want!' Khushi spat back at him.
'You asked me once what I see in NK. Let me tell you now. Unlike you, he is a
thorough gentleman who knows how a woman should be treated!'
Arnav's eyes burned like hot coals boring holes in her back, she ran from him as
fast as her legs could take her.