Joined: 27 July 2005
Joined: 30 June 2005
Funky Punjabi music echoed off cold, white walls in the accounting department of Khanna Enterprises. Kripa Sharma picked up her daily report and moved towards the elevator, grazing the edges of the few desks on her way, mumbling a "sorry" to the chipped paint.
" Say hi to my boyfriend,", Shalini Desai called from one of the desks. " Let Mr Angad know that as he changes women every week tell him I'm available next Friday."
" Every week?" Shilpa Sethi laughed. " Try every hour on the hour." Waving at Kripa she added, " that certainly doesn't mean that I'm not free next hour or the hour after that."
Laughter filled the large windowless room. Several of the girls hooted and catcalled, while Mr Shah the head of accounts simply rolled his eyes.
Kripa danced into the elevator with a good-natured grin, calling back, "I'm here to save you girls from yourselves. He's just not good enough for you." But as the doors closed and she pressed the button for the twenty-fifth floor, her smile faded.
Admittedly Angad Khanna was one of the most gorgeous men she'd ever seen, but he was also one of the most arrogant. He barely acknowledged anyone who didn't have a title attached to their name, and probably hadn't spoken more than two words to Kripa in the year and a half she'd been bringing him his daily reports.
But her opinion of him came from more than just his lack of polite communication. Angad Khanna was one of those men who would go to limits to get a girl in the bed and once done would dump her flat. She sighed heavily. God she had bigger things to think about than the workaholic Khanna who hardly knew that life existed below the twenty fifth floor. Like how on earth she was going to open her music school on the shoestring budget would afford her. Granted, her job in the company paid her full benefits and allowed her flexible hours but the amount of savings she'd amassed wasn't even close to what she needed. Every day she was receiving more and more calls from parents who desperately wanted their children in a music class but couldn't afford the steep tuition at any music schools.
It was beginning to look as though her dream would just have to wait a little longer.
The elevator dinged and she pushed herself down the hall. No spirit lifting music played on the executive floor, only the low tones of deals being made came from behind the closed doors and throughout the busy hallways. She paused in front of Angad's corner office, plastered a smile on her face, smoothed her hair back and knocked lightly on his door.
" Enter," came the same husky command that she'd heard every morning for the past year and a half.
Briskly and with purpose Kripa opened the door and moved into the room. " Good morning Mr Khanna." He glanced up and smiled. " good morning."
She hesitated, her brows knitting together. She couldn't remember him ever looking at her before, let alone smiling. Swallowing the lump that had just come into her throat, she placed the report on the edge of the desk and tried to ignore the spicy scent of his cologne, which always seemed to throw her for a loop whenever she got too close. "Report's sir."
"Thank you Kripa...."
She froze.. Kripa?? She had no idea that Angad Khanna even knew her name. What was going on here? And why was he giving her that smile- that unnerving, sexy and hard to drool-like smile? Her gut feeling was asking her to throw the reports and run as fast as she could.
" Well have a good day, sir," she said, turning quickly to go. But the sleeve of her blouse had other plans, catching itself on the wire basket with all his unopened mails. Laughing nervously, she tugged on the stubborn fabric, trying to free herself. But it wouldn't budge. She gave it one last swift pull, but only managed to send the basket of mail flying. On a gasp, she lunged to catch it, hearing her shirt tear as she landed gracelessly.
With her heart slamming against her ribs and a shaky smile plastered on her face, she raised the basket up in a sad show of victory, only to catch Angad's more customary haw-like stare. Ah, that was more like it, she thought as she levelled her gaze with his own. Trying to pretend that she was calm and unruffled, she stood and set the basket down firmly.
Right onto the tip of his coffee cup.
Suffocating her gasp behind her hand, she watched the dark stain spread menacingly across the desk. " Ohmigod," she breathed, hearing him rush up beside her. " I will clean this up right away."
" Its not a problem." His strong hands were on her shoulders, pulling her close to his side away from the hot liquid, even as he rang for his secretary with a push button. "Mrs Daruwala, send housekeeping with some paper towels."
Forgetting who he was and who she was for a moment, Kripa glanced up at him ' all six feet, two inches of him. Thick black hair, just a little wavy, licked the edges of his stretched white collar. Olive skin, chiselled features, full lips and eyes the colour of dark chocolate. It was a stubborn, arrogant face, but drop dead gorgeous nonetheless. With that half smile and bedroom gaze, he was the cover of men's magazine and that star of every woman's fantasy. And he fitted his gray pinstripe suit like nobody's business, while displaying an imposing confidence that permeated the air around him.
She could see why every woman in this building had a crush on him. And why her best course of action was to get as far away from him as possible- as soon as possible.
But she didn't move.
He held her loosely against his side, those bedroom eyes now filled with concern. " Are you all right?"
The warmth of him, his strength, against her, sent currents of heat zipping, through her blood. " I'm sorry Mr. Khanna. I must've taken a clumsy pill with my vitamin this morning."
Finally he released her and she felt as though she could breathe again. " Don't worry," he said. "
It'll be cleaned up momentarily."
As he walked back behind his desk, a woman from housekeeping entered and silently mopped up the mess. She was gone in seconds, and Kripa turned to make her own hasty retreat. She wasn't about to hand around and give time for him to fire her.
" Please stay for a moment, Kripa." His words stopped her and she looked over her shoulder to see him smiling at her again ' his deep brown eyes roaming her face. I'll bet he's one great kisser.
Before she could scold herself for such an outrageous thought, he asked, " Can I get you a safety pin or...."
Kripa put her hand over the tear in her white blouse. " It's nothing. I can take care of it." And I should go.
" I insist. If you tell me the name of the boutique where you shop, I'll have a new one here in an hour."
Kripa tried not to laugh. Mostly because he'd just said " boutique." She'd gotten the blouse at a sale. " It's not necessary, I have another shirt in my locker, but thank you." Of course, she didn't have anything in her locker but she wasn't going to share that with him. All she wanted to do now was to get out of Angad Khanna's office before he gave her two weeks to clear out that locker and never come back.
" How long have you worked for me, Kripa?"
Oh here it comes. " A little over a year sir."
As he eased into his own brown leather chair, he motioned for her to take the seat opposite. " Why don't you sit down for a moment."
Kripa bit her lip. " Uh...yes, sir."
"I'd like to talk to you about something."
She perched at the very edge of the seat and blurted out. " Am I being fired? I'm very sorry about the coffee. And that small fire in the mail room last week really wasn't my fault."
She thought she saw a hint of laughter behind his eyes, but it passed as he said, " I'm going to Amritsar next week to spend some time with the head of a certain company. I'm interested in buying the company."
Kripa cocked her head to the side. Why in the world was Angad Khanna sharing this information with her? And, God what was the proper response? She opted for the short congratulatory speech. " How...nice for you sir. I'm sure it will be very good invest'"
He stopped her with just a lift of his brow. " The catch is, I'm fairly certain he wants the company to go to a family man. And as I'm not married or even in the market to be, I find myself in a disconcerting position." He leaned back in his char, " Kripa, I need you to pretend that you're my wife."
Kripa hesitated, blinking with bewilderment, not at all sure she heard him correctly.
"Don't misunderstand me. This is strictly a business trip. I need you to act the part of my wife just for the weekend."
Okay, she had heard him correctly, but that knowledge brought little comfort.
He crossed his arms over his rather broad chest. "I'm afraid I'm one of those abrupt, come -to-the-point, kind of businessmen."
She nodded and managed to choke out, " to say the least."
" You're not married--"
" No, I'm not but--"
He nodded. " Good. Then I would be honoured if you would accompany me to this function."
Kripa just stared at him. " Is this some kind of joke sir?"
He shook his head slowly, "No."
" You want me to pretend to be your wife for the weekend and its just business?"
" Of course"
"Of course," she repeated, laughter erupting in her throat. She couldn't help it. It was all so ridiculous. She came to her feet and took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, but i have to decline."
He studied her for a moment." Believe me when I say that you will be well compensated."
She stood there, blank, amazed. " You are asking me to go away with you for a week and lie about who I am."
He nodded casually, confidently, as though he'd asked this of a million different women'a million different times'and every one of them had said yes. Well, she wasn't like other women and she wouldn't help Angad Khanna with his deceitful little plot in a million years.
" My answer is no." She turned and walked towards the door, calling back in the most professional voice she could under the circumstances, " Good day, Mr Khanna."
Kripa Sharma sure had a spunk, Angad mused a few hours later as he opened the envelope on his desk, and he didn't know too many women like that. He was rarely surprised by people'even more rarely rejected by them and in less than ten minutes Kripa Sharma had accomplished both.
Angad looked at the papers which held a detailed report about Ms Sharma. Angad already knew that she had right qualifications'smart, quick and attractive'all musts for a good corporate wife. She needed some help with the wardrobe. But her most valuable asset was the fact that her personal'and inexplicable'dislike of him, and that's what he needed more than anything'no strings. Her name was Kripa Sharma and she was born in Nainital. She had lost her parents in a car accident when she was 8 and grew up in an orphanage. She holds a degree in music and teaches kids in her free time. She buys chocolate ice cream every Friday night after work and she turns twenty five October the seventh. Reading further ahead Angad felt the corners of his mouth lift into a smile.
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Joined: 30 June 2005
Angad Khanna stood in the doorway, his eyes set on her.
Gone was the pinstripe suit. Jeans and a simple shirt had taken its place. Simple. Hah! Nothing on or about Angad Khanna was simple, Kripa thought wryly, wishing she'd fixed her hair or worn something nicer, something from a boutique....
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