Joined: 16 October 2007
She shifted the truck into park but left the motor running and cranked the fan a little higher, holding her mitten-clad hands in front of the vent for a moment. The air was frigid, and even the long drive here hadn't made the temperature in the truck any more comfortable than when she'd started it thirty minutes ago. She looked at the sky and silently cursed the clouds.
Unenthusiastically she turned her attention to the home in front of her. From what she'd been told, the Vajpayeei's had only lived here for two years and already the house was something out of a magazine. mr. and Mrs. Vajpayeei were the wealthiest and most influential people in town. To be honest, they were probably the richest people from here . It was a gorgeous house, but the people of the city hadn't seemed to adjust to the big city decadence of the Vajpayeei's . They gossiped about what was supposedly on the inside of the spacious home: a movie theater, an indoor pool, a full gym, even a bowling alley! From Rashmis's completely envious reaction when she mentioned she was coming here, leher gathered that an invitation to visit the estate was something of a rare, if non-existent, occurrence.
Of course, Rashmi had a lot of other things to say to leher, and her veiled jibes were why she found herself sitting in the Vajpayeei's driveway, feeling more self conscious and insecure than usual. Rashmi had made it perfectly clear that Abheer would NEVER be interested in leher for anything more than just schoolwork. He's rumored to only date models ... I heard his recent girlfriend lives in Milan or something … You know, leher, I really don't think he would ever seriously consider dating anyone who wasn't in the same social circle as his family. rashmi had gone on and on, ultimately showing her true colors. Her so-called friend's pettiness was the main reason she hadn't called and canceled the study session with some lame excuse. She was positive rashmi was fuming right now, knowing leher was going to spend the next few hours with ABheer Vajpayeei.
At his house.
Of course the other reason was Abheer himself. She felt inexplicitly drawn to him. She knew most girls at school had a crush on him; he was quiet and mysterious and absolutely gorgeous, but it wasn't just his good looks that intrigued her. He was smart, and polite, and so down-to-earth when he spoke to her. He didn't play the handsome, rich kid at all. In fact, he seemed almost shy. It didn't hurt that when their hands accidently brushed against each other in class it felt like there was an electric current coursing through her body, and her heart wanted to jump out of her chest. Yes, there was just something else about him. Something she dreamed of getting to know better.
Leher shook her head trying to clear such insane thoughts from her mind. She didn't believe he had any motivation—other than studying—behind his invitation; she was surely not his type (whatever that was) but she couldn't help wishing a little. Glancing back at the house her gaze was drawn to the second floor and two windows with the curtains pulled back, exposing the room within; one was obviously a girl's room with a garish purple color on the walls, the other had a muted blue tone and looked to be a guy's room given the electric guitar hanging on the wall. She wondered if the whole 'tortured soul' musician rumors about Abheer were true. There was so much gossip surrounding him, she didn't really know what to believe.
Gathering her courage, she picked up her bag and quickly checked to make sure she had her notes. Reaching for the door handle her nerve failed her and she let her forehead smack against the steering wheel. Maybe she could sneak away and call him to say she wouldn't be able to make it. She peered through the wheel and just over the dash at theVajpayeei's ' front door. Nope, no such luck. He was standing in the doorway, his forehead wrinkled. He was clearly concerned.
Great! Now he was sure to think she was some kind of mental patient for sitting in his driveway, staring off into space.
She turned off her truck, wrapped her coat tighter around her body, and with a shiver, headed toward the house.
"chuti?" he called a little louder.
He didn't turn when he heard her bouncing down the stairs but watched in frustration as leher continued to sit in her truck.
"What in the world is she doing? It's been five minutes since she got here, and she's just sitting out there."
Chutki peeked around his side and through the window he was frowning at and giggled. "I don't know, Abhi. She's probably working up her courage. I'm sure her friends have told her all sorts of stories about us … the house … you.
"Let's see," she started ticking things off on her fingers. "Since we moved here from a big city, mom and dad are actually criminals. Which, of course, is where all our money comes from—you know, the drugs being made in the boat house," she said sarcastically and held up another finger. madhav not really at college; nope, he's in the 'big house' for murder. That's actually one of my favorites; he'd get such a kick out it. What else? I'm a freak, well that one is true. And of course my favorite rumor about you, my dear brother, is that you only date super models. Oh! And you're secretly a rock star. Ha! You wish!" She gave an exaggerated eye roll and wiggled her eyebrows, waiting for him to laugh at her joke. When he didn't respond she went on. "So, basically we're all stuck-up, rude, inconsiderate, egotistical and most likely criminals. Hell, I'd be afraid to come in here myself."
"Super models? What? What are you talking about, Chutki? " he asked, tearing his gaze away from the window and frowning down at her.
"Is that the only thing you heard, A? It's true—you only date models, according to the high school rumor mill. Which is why you're not interested in anybody here . I'm sure mad's choice of girlfriends started that one. Hey, it's better than them saying you're not interested in girls at all, right?" She glanced up into her brother's face, then became serious in an instant. She looked back out the window at the girl sitting in their driveway. "Oh. You really like her, Abhi?"
"Seriously, ABheer. Do you like her?"
"I don't know what you're talking about—" Chutki's glare had him stopping in mid-sentence. His sister wouldn't let him avoid telling her the truth. She never did. "I don't know, . She's different than the other girls . Simpler, yet more complicated." He returned his eyes to Leher ; his voice was soft and gentle as he spoke. "Get her talking and you can see how passionate she is about life, but she's shy and unassuming. I guess you could say she … she intrigues me. I can't seem to read her very well though. Every time I think I have her figured out, she does something I don't expect."
"You've never talked about her before. I hadn't realized you'd spent any time with her," she said.
"I haven't really. Only at school. She's my lab partner. That's why I invited her over, to do our science project," he paused, looking back at his sister, pondering if he should tell her how nervous he was to have Leher here but decided not to. "I've seen her at the sporting goods place, too. She works there," he finished instead.
"Hmm … Well, it's good you invited her over today. I think the weather's going to take a turn for the worse and you two may have ilots/i of time to get to know one another. Like all night."
It was his turn to roll his eyes and laugh, but he became serious again as he turned his attention back to the window. "Maybe I should go get her." He opened the door just in time to see Leher smack her head against the steering wheel.
"Yep, she's mustering up that courage. I wonder what they told her?" Chutki laughed as she skipped off into the kitchen.
Abheer stood there, scowling. Was she that nervous to come here? He had watched as Rashmi had talked to Leher in the cafeteria that afternoon but hadn't thought too much about it. She'd been whispering furiously, all the while taking covert glances at him as he ate his lunch. Rashmi was a horrible gossip and had never quite forgiven him for politely refusing her invitation to the Girl's Choice dance last year. Not a good combination. He was sure her monologue this afternoon had not painted him in a good light.
Just then he saw Leher peek over her dashboard and spot him.
"Hi, Leher," he greeted as soon as she started up the walkway, a bright smile on his handsome face. "I'm glad you could make it."
"Abheer," she said with a tip of her head, a faint tinge of pink spreading across her cheek bones. She knew he had seen her bang her forehead. She wondered if it had left a mark.
"I guess my directions worked out okay. You didn't have any problem finding the house, did you?" he asked politely.
Too embarrassed to make eye-contact, she carefully walked up the stairs and entered the foyer, mumbling, "They were perfect. Thanks."
She stopped abruptly. The house really was stunning. People hadn't lied when they said it could be in a magazine. Floor-to-ceiling windows covered the back wall of the living room, giving a grand view of a beautiful courtyard and beyond that, . She could only imagine how spectacular it must look on a clear day. A large stone fireplace was tucked into the corner; a fire currently blazed, sending warmth throughout the room. The carpet was beige and the walls were a calming green. Paintings of all sizes and styles tastefully decorated most of the vertical surfaces in the room. The furniture was contemporary but comfortable looking. Though not what Leher was accustomed to, the overall effect was very warm and welcoming.
"Here, let me take your jacket," Abheer said softly from behind her, causing her to jump. She had been so engrossed in the house that she hadn't realized he had come in behind her. Now that she was paying attention, she could feel his warmth at her back. She shivered, and this time it wasn't because of the cold.
"Uh, yeah, sure, thanks. Your house is really nice." She turned just as Abheer stepped closer and they collided, her face pressing softly against his chest. She took a quick step back and lost her footing. Bracing herself for a fall, she was surprised to be caught by Abheer's firm grasp. He lifted her up and their eyes locked. He held her for a minute, making sure she was steady on her feet, before slowly loosening his grip. Her heart stopped beating and didn't start back until he took a step back.
"You okay?" he asked.
"Fine," she stammered as she felt her face heat for what seemed to be the hundredth time in less than ten minutes. Way to impress him, Leher, she chided herself; she wasn't exactly exuding the behavior of a model.
"It's pretty cold out there today," he said changing the subject in what had to be an attempt to try to make her feel better, "but I think the house is warm enough. If not, I can always turn up the heat."
Leher shivered again at his words and wondered if he even realized the double entendre. Was he flirting with her? She could only hope.
He gave her a sweet little grin and helped her out of her coat, waiting patiently until she removed her hat and mittens. "I really hate to ask, but can you take your shoes off, too? It's kind of a house rule. My mom's a little anal about keeping the carpet clean."
Leher froze. Take off her shoes? This was just getting better and better. Well she could forget about him flirting now.
She looked down at her black Chucks and gulped. She had run out of clean socks this morning and had thrown on the only thing in the drawer, a pair her sister had given her as a gag gift . Pink and black striped toe socks! She bent down and started untying her laces—it wasn't like she could refuse, could she? Damn it, after this afternoon, . She'd never be able to face abeer again.
"Hi, Leher! I'm abheers sister." A female voice rang out and she glanced up from her shoes to see Abheer's sister bounce into the room. Chutki smiled a smile that was almost as dazzling as Abheer's and Leher was excited to finally be meeting her. She was a tiny little thing, known for her extra large personality and outrageous style. And today was no exception, she was wearing a red knit oversized shirt and silver leggings with … red socks with silver snowflakes. Chutki wiggled her toes and Leher nearly cried in relief. Each toe was colored, alternating red and silver and separately encased in cotton.
When she saw leher's expression she laughed. "They were a gift. Like 'em? Come on, leher, get out of those shoes and I'll take you on a tour of our humble abode. I'm sure the locals have been giving you an earful about this place. You're going to be very in vogue tomorrow.
"Now abheer, be a good boy and get some snacks for your guest. We'll only be a minute."
Abheer raised his eyebrows and sighed to himself as the two girls disappeared up the nearest staircase. He probably shouldn't let Chutki have free rein with leher. His sister tended toward braggadocios when she talked about him and his musical accomplishments. It was nice she was so proud of him, but he really hoped she'd behave herself with leher. He didn't want this girl to think he was some sort of pompous ass.
He grabbed leher's bag and headed into the kitchen. He would have to thank chutki later; he wasn't sure how she'd known but her entrance wearing those crazy socks had made all the difference. leher had visibly relaxed after seeing her feet, and he'd finally seen her beautiful smile. He'd understood after she took off her shoes and her pink and black socks were visible. He only wished he could tell her that she had no reason to feel embarrassed; he thought the socks were adorable and just perfectly Leher.
The kitchen smelled deliciously of freshly baked cookies and abheer was grateful to his sis once again; this time for soothing his own nerves. Chocolate chip cookies were definitely a comfort food. He popped a still-warm cookie into his mouth and started a pot of coffee. He wondered if leher liked coffee or if she was more of a hot chocolate type of girl. Damn, there were so many things he wanted to know about her.
He grabbed two mugs from the cabinet and set them on the table, then turned to get a plate for the cookies. He stopped mid-reach to stare at his hands. A jolt had gone through him when he had grabbed leher to stop her from falling, and his fingers were still tingling slightly. It had been the strangest sensation. He couldn't figure out if he wanted to let her go or never let her go. He really was losing it over this girl.
Not that he'd admit it to anyone but he was pretty infatuated with her. The only problem was that she'd never given him the idea that she particularly liked him. He probably didn't stand a chance. He rubbed his hand against his chest where her face had pressed and tried hard to focus. They'd be back down in a few minutes and he'd been ribed enough by his siblings for being a daydreamer. Even if chutki had resisted telling leher all his deep dark secrets, she'd never be able to refrain from teasing him if she caught him daydreaming.
He arranged a plate of cookies and got himself a cup of coffee. He was just taking his book out of his bag when he heard the girls making their way to the kitchen.
"Thanks, chutki. All the gossip doesn't do the house nearly the justice it deserves. I think I'll tell everyone I was sworn to secrecy though; that way I can help add to the whole Vajpayeei's mystique," leher laughed as she followed chutki into the room.
"Perfect! It'll fit right in with the 'in hiding' theory, too," Chutki said with a wink at leher. "Though, come to think of it, I'd never heard the witness protection program rumor before.
"What do you think, abhi? Was dad a witness in some mobster case that we don't know about?" She rolled her eyes and headed out of the kitchen, leaving leher and leher alone.
"My sister talk your ear off?" he asked.
"No, not really," she said. "But it was a little hard to keep up. The house really is amazing." She sat down in the chair across from him and grabbed her bag. "Your sister is pretty great, too."
"If you say so," he said with a smile. "Can I get you something to drink? Coffee, or maybe hot chocolate?"
"Coffee would be great. Thanks."
"chutki made cookies this afternoon. Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin," he pointed at the other cookies on the plate, "and I think these are Snickerdoodles. She's never made them before but my gran has."
"Snickerdoodles? Really?" She grabbed a cookie and took a bite. "I love Snickerdoodles, they're my favorite!"
Her smile lit up her face and he made a mental note to thank chutki once again for her uncanny foresight.
Conversation with abheer was easier than she had imagined—after they'd worked through the initial awkwardness—and the afternoon passed quickly. They'd finished their science project at least an hour ago and here they were still chatting away. It was odd for her to feel this relaxed and comfortable around a boy.
She had opened up and told him about her life with her family, and listened in awe as he hesitantly told her about his musical career and the year and a half he had spent traveling the world studying with different masters. this city wasn't exactly a musical Mecca, but he said it suited him just fine being away from the craziness.
Well at least one of the rumors had a grain of truth to it, she thought to herself. Not that any of the other rubbish rashmi had told her did. She respected his need for privacy, and felt honored that he had shared something so personal with her. It was one piece of information she would be sure to keep away from rashmi and the gossip mongers.
"I'd really love to hear you play sometime, abheer."
"Are you sure? The cello can be awfully boring. I play the electric guitar, too, ya know," he teased. "I hear I'm secretly a rock star."
"According to rashmi, that's a very good possibility."
He laughed and leher felt hopeful that maybe, just maybe, abheer felt a little something for her. He wasn't really flirting but he wasn't rushing her out the door either. She looked at her watch out of curiosity and was surprised to see it was already seven. Her dad was probably freaking out.
"Well, I guess I should be going," she said reluctantly. "It's getting late, and I'm sure my father is probably wearing a hole in the carpet from his pacing."
She thought she saw him frown a little and then his amazing smile was back.
"I'm so glad you were able to come by, leher. I really had a great time." He stood before she did and pulled out her chair for her as she rose, which of course threw her off balance, once again sending her into him.
His arms automatically came up to steady her, and leher felt her heart begin to pound wildly. abheer looked down at her, holding on for longer than necessary, and leher could feel his heart beating just as quickly as her own. This was the first time they had touched since she had fallen before.
When he let go of her, leher immediately felt like a part of her was missing.
"Here, let me help you get your stuff to the car," abheer said quickly, not meeting her eyes. He grabbed her bag and walked her to the foyer.
Damn, was he that eager to get rid of her now? Could anyone say mixed signals?
"I should probably let my truck warm up a bit before I leave."
"Yeah, it was awfully cold out there before."
They stood awkwardly by the front door, neither making a move to get her jacket. She didn't want to leave, but she really couldn't just invite herself to stay.
"I guess I …"
"Maybe you could …"
They began speaking at the same time and somehow that eased the tension in the air. They both laughed and abheer smiled that dazzling smile at her again. God, it made her knees weak.
"I'll get your jacket but you have to promise me you'll come by again."
"I'd love to." She beamed up at him. Maybe he wasn't so eager to have her leave, after all.
She slipped on her coat and her shoes while abheer watched. She was crap at flirting but wondered if she should make a serious attempt. He didn't seem the type to make the first move. What was the worst that could happen? He'd already witnessed her unusual sock fashion and her atrocious sense of balance.
She had almost convinced herself to try when abheer opened the door and they saw it. Snow. lots n lots rain. dad had been correct this morning in his storm predictions.
"Wow. Look at this storm! How in the world did we miss this?"
They both looked behind them at the wall of windows, . "It must have been the company," they said at the same time.
When leher looked back at abheer his expression had softened and he had taken a step closer to her.
"I think you should stay," he said.
She lost her nerve now that he was so close, and was almost grateful when chutki walked past them saying, "Close the door already," under her breath, effectively ruining the moment.
With a glance back at abheer, she took off down the steps, carefully holding the railing, then slipped and slid her way to her truck. She yanked open the door and started it up, turning the defrost on high.
Making it back to the house in one piece, she was surprised to see abheer scowl as he closed the door behind her.
"You can't drive in this," he stated simply and started to brush the rain off her shoulders.
"Well I really can't stay. I'm sure it'll be fine."
"It's bad out there."
She felt something change in his expression, and the tension from earlier was suddenly back.
"It's late. I honestly have to go."
His hands grazed against hers. "Your hands, they're like ice. You'll freeze out there," he said as he took her hands in his own. "I really think you should stay."
She looked up into his eyes and the intensity she saw there made her forget what she was going to say for a moment. "My father …"
"Your father …"
"He'll worry," she finished with a shake of her head. She almost felt like she was under some sort of spell.
"You can call."
"I've got to go home."
"But it's bad out there."
"There's bound to be talk."
"Do you care?"
He bent his head down slightly and tentatively brushed his lips against hers.
"I'd hate for anything to happen to you, leher," he whispered. "Can't you stay awhile longer?"
He kissed her again. "Please."
"I really shouldn't—"
"… all right."
Chutki smiled at her brother and leher from her spying location on the stairs, and started singing to herself as she bounced her way back to her room. "Baby, it's cold outsideTop of Form 1
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