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'Kiss you?' Damini flushed in embarrassment as she heard her voice rise to a squeak, and she cleared her throat quickly. '
'Why should I do that?' That was better. Deeper, steadier, just a touch of amusement to show that she recognised that he was joking, much more like the sophisticated PR consultant she was supposed to be.
'You said that you would do anything for the post,' Prithvi pointed out.
Without quite knowing why, Damini's assurance began to trickle away, and she eyed him uneasily. 'Well, I know I did, but...'
'Are you trying to tell me that you're not prepared to do anything?'
'You're not serious!'
'Don't I look serious?'
He did. Absolutely serious.
Damini swallowed. 'Do you interview all your prospective employees like this?'
'Only those with the potential to fulfil a very special role.' Prithvi's face was still perfectly straight, but Damini seized on the glimmer of amusement she could see in the grey eyes.
'You are joking!'
'No, I'm not,' he said. 'You asked what you could do to convince me that it was worth giving you a chance, and I've told you. You can kiss me.'
'But how can you possibly tell anything about my PR skills from a kiss?' Damini objected, trying to ignore the way her heart was racketing around her chest at the mere thought of kissing him.
'I'm not interested in your skills,' said Prithvi. 'I want to know whether you're the kind of person who's prepared to stand out from the crowd—and I don't just mean by wearing ridiculous shoes. Look around you, Damini,' he went on, nodding his head in the direction of the other guests. 'See how many people are watching us while trying not to make it obvious. They don't like the fact that you're talking to me.'
It was true. Damini, following his glance, noticed how friends that she had known for years averted their eyes while others were eyeing her covertly. It was an uncomfortable feeling, and she turned back to Prithvi, an uncharacteristic frown in her blue eyes. '
OK, so he wasn't the most charming man in the world, and his reputation certainly didn't bear close scrutiny, but he wasn't that bad. Damini wouldn't go so far as to say that she liked him. He was cold and callous, and he had made little attempt to conceal his contempt for her family and friends, but there was something intriguing about him, something that excited, irritated, confused, disturbed her all at the same time.
'I'm not welcome here,' Prithvi was saying, not sounding at all bothered by the fact. 'No one has been prepared to come right out and say it, but it's obvious. I don't belong here, and if I'd given them the slightest excuse there would have been plenty of people more than happy to throw me out. It's been bad enough for them to see you standing here with me all this time. How do you think they'd react if you kissed me?'
Damini tried to picture the scene, but although she could imagine kissing Prithvi with surprised clarity, somehow she couldn't get past that to visualise the reactions of anyone watching.
'You'd be breaking ranks big time,' Prithvi answered for her. 'You'd be saying you didn't care what anyone thought, that you'd do whatever it took to get what you want.' He looked into Damini's face, a faint smile on his lips as doubt wrestled with determination to prove herself in the blue eyes. 'And that's the kind of person I'm looking for,' he said.
'And if I don't want to break ranks?'
Prithvi shrugged carelessly. 'You walk away. I leave. I find someone else.'
He might at least sound as if he cared one way or another, thought Damini with something suspiciously close to irritation. She looked away from him, edgily running a finger around the base of her glass.
She had her proud and dignity. She had raised voice endlessly about the old-fashioned attitudes of people all around. Damini worked in London alone, to proved herself strong and different that was not acceptable by people all around of couse but She knew that the teasing was affectionate, and she liked the fact that they thought of her as unconventional so she didnt care about them...
You'd be saying you didn't care what anyone thought. Prithvi had issued a challenge, and she longed to take it up, but deep down Damini knew that she did care. These people were her family and friends. She might not choose to live in the small town, but that didn't mean she wanted to shock or offend them unnecessarily. When it came down to it, Damini just wanted everyone to like her.
There would be a heated controversy if she kissed Prithvi Saxena, and in spite of her positive confidence Damini felt a fear inside her heart at the thought 'I can hardly fling myself into your arms in the middle of my sister's wedding,' she said confusingly, unaware that her thoughts were written clearly in her expressive face. 'It would cause a scene. While it might prove your point, I'm not prepared to do anything to spoil her day. It wouldn't be fair.'
Prithvi looked faintly bored by her expressions and words. 'Ms, Romantic..Wake up, I wasn't thinking of a passionate ki..,' he said with a different look that was unreadable to her. 'I know you're much too nice a girl to go in for anything like that!' I know i know...
'Oh.' Said.Damini who wasn't sure she liked the way he'd said word 'nice'. It wasn't that she wanted to kiss him—God help !—but she didn't want to be the kind of girl who didn't dare either. She stood feeling foolish, unable to decide whether she was relieved or offended at Prithvi's lack of interest in being kissed by her.
'What were you thinking of?' she asked him uncertainly. ' :
'a small kiss on the cheek,' said Prithvi, lifting his brows in a way that made Damini feel ridiculous for having thought that he could possibly mean anything else. 'A quick kiss to say thanks or goodbye, that's all. You have arrange a christen style wedding & as far I know its nt a big deal in this occassion'
'Oh,' said Damini again (She bit her lip & saw her momma, greeting friends on the other side. They wouldn't like her kissing Prithvi at all, and nor would anyone else. Perhaps no one would notice. It would be dark by then and the party would be well away. Everyone would be too busy enjoying themselves to wonder what she was doing with Prithvi Saxena, and anyway, it would only take a second. And it would be worth it. A very special role, wasn't that what Prithvi had called it? Quite apart from what it would do for her CV, ah important job with a company like Saxena wd be very profitable, Damini calculated_).
It was all very well not wanting to upset anybody, but the hard fact was that she needed the money to pay bills of Roshni's wedding, her momma's future and than her own..
Damini finished the champagne in her glass in one shot and thought of her financial status. Face it, her only other choice was to get a small job of some kind to tide her over. It wasn't that she hadn't done it before, but it certainly wasn't what she had planned to be doing at this age, and it was up to her to find a way out of her financial problems.
She could settle for a small job that too after so much of hard work or she could kiss Prithvi Saxena.
Prithvi had been watching the her emotions flitting across her face, but now he looked with irratation at his watch and look into her eyes : 'I might as well go,' he said. . ;
'What, now?' Damini regarded him with dismay. She had thought that she would have the rest of the evening to build up courage.
'No point in hanging around,' said Prithvi. 'I've done what I came to do. I thought it would be interesting to see if things had changed round here, but obviously they haven't'.The grey eyes gleamed with mockery as he looked at Damini. 'Shall I see myself out, or are you coming?'
How hard could it be? It was ridiculous to make such a fuss about a tiny kiss on cheek. All she had to do was walk across the hall with him, say goodbye and press her cheek to his.
Piece of cake.
Damini put down her glass. I'll come with you,' she said.
Something flickered in Prithvi's eyes, and was gone. 'Good,' was all he said.
Turning, he headed across the middle of the hall to the wide wooden doors that stood open to the night. He walked with the long, deliberate stride of a man used to walking alone, appearing not to notice the almost tangible hostility of the crowd,Struggling to keep up with him in her high heel shoes, Damini was very conscious of the eyes following
her. So much for not being noticed. Prithvi had paused at the doors and was waiting for her to catch up. Damini told herself that her sudden breathlessness was due to hurrying on unsteady heels, and nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that any moment now she was going to kiss him.
Outside, it was already dark. Two more steps would have taken them into the shadows, but he had stopped deliberately in the doorway so that they were framed against the darkness in the brightness of the light that shone directly above their heads. It was like being on stage.
I'll say goodbye,' said Prithvi, and held out his hand. His face was quite straight, but the startlingly light eyes glinted with a mocking challenge. He thought that she would lose her nerve, but Damini bring her chin up. This was her chance to prove herself.
She took his outstretched hand. 'Goodbye,' she said, surprised at how steady her voice sounded. The press of his palm was cool and firm, and as his fingers closed around hers she felt something uncurl alarmingly inside her, but she made herself look directly into his eyes, her own very blue and sparkling with boldness.
'It was nice to meet you,' she went on deliberately,and she brought her other hand up to rest against his shoulder. She felt his body strenght and thought that time had slowed down while her senses simultaneously speeded up. Damini was a tall girl, but Prithvi was taller still, and when he made no effort to bend his head she had to lift herself onto her toes to bring her face close to his, balancing herself by spreading her hand against his chest. She pressed her cheek against Prithvi's cool skin, feeling its roughness, breathing in his clean, masculine smell, grazing it with her lips, shivering at the sensation. Everything seemed to be happening hazily, as if in slow motion. Damini had forgotten their audience, but she hadn't forgotten what she was doing, and when she felt Prithvi's fingers begin to loosen their grip she tightened her hold for balancing herself and her lips touched his..Prithvi tensed questioningly as her hand slid up from his chest to his shoulder, and she turned her head. For a fleeting moment blue eyes looked into grey, and then Damini smiled, lowering her lashes, Both were not sure if she was influnced by champange or not.
Confused by the feeling, she would have pulled away if Prithvi hadn't chosen that exact moment to put his free arm around her waist and lift her hard against him. Damini found herself once helpless but secure.
His kissed her for a long, sensational electricity hit her heart that made her consicous. It was enough to break the kiss. Prithvi's arm fell, his hand released hers, and Damini was left, dizzy and confused, somehow managing to stand. The blue eyes were dazed, and she blinked furiously to clear her head.
What had happened? One second she had been coolly determined to impress him by kissing him on cheeks, and the next...oh, the next she kissed him ..a bit passionatly...there had been that moment of sensation, thrilling and terrifying at the same time. Damini couldn't have even said how long it lasted.
Shaken, she focused at last on her hand. It was clutching Prithvi's shoulder,crumpling his shirt between her fingers, and Damini snatch her hand away, although she could have done with the patience...
She had kissed him because she needed a job, not a shoulder to lean on. Remember?
'Will—?' She stopped, horrified by the huskiness of her voice. 'Will you consider me now?'
'I certainly will,' said Prithvi although his mind was also not in place becoz of the sensantional moment and smiled.
He had smiled at her before, but this smile was different and may be at best & unexpected, and Damini's heart did a flipflop that left her
even more breathless than she had been before. It was as if she had blinked to find someone completely different standing before her.
'Wh—wh—when...?' she said hesitatly, trying to ask him about the interview.
Prithvi seemed to understand and he pulled out a business card from his pocket and offered it to Damini, who took it with nerveless fingers. 'Give me a call,' he said, and turned to walk out, leaving Damini to stare after him, his card clutched unread in her hand.
1 week later..Damini looked at her watch may be 10thtime, and wondered if it was too late to change her shoes.
She had been pleased with her reflection when she left her room. After a long though on what she should wear, Damini had settled at knee length plain whine red dress which made her look stylish and professional, without
making it seem as if she had tried too hard to impress Prithvi. Maybe it was a bit shorter than she would normally wear to an interview,
but then most interviews didn't involve being flown to london and collected from the airport 'by Aston Martin One-77, or being put up in "The Midland Grand Hote" so luxurious her eyes had popped when she saw the room. It had taken Damini ages to pluck up the courage to ring Prithvi on the Monday after Roshni's wedding. She'd sat by the phone, tapping his card against her teeth, wishing she could put that kiss from her mind and feeling ridiculously, pathetically nervous at the idea of seeing him again. Even the thought of his voice at the other end of the phone had been enough to set the nerves up and down.
What had been the point of going through all that to get his number if she wasn't even going to call him? Damini had asked herself hesitatly.Chances were that Prithvi would simply put her in touch with the personnel
department and she would never have anything else to do with him.
She had to pay work for her financial conditionss somehow, didn't she?
And after all that, when she'd finally dialled the number, she'd got not Prithvi but his highly efficient assistant, who had told her that she would make arrangements for Damini to fly to London. Mr Saxena, she'd said, would see her for dinner the following Friday at eight o'clock. It seemed a funny time for an interview, but Damini had been too intimidated by the PA's manner to question her further.
Her spirits had risen on the flight over to Sydney. A first-class ticket, Aston Martin One-77 service from the airport, a luxurious suite in a top-class hotel... Prithvi must have been serious about it being an important job. Damini congratulated herself on having had the courage to kiss him. It had been awkward afterwards, to say the least, but clearly it had been worth it.
To celebrate, Damini had taken herself shopping as soon as she'd arrived in London, and had found a pair of shoes so perfect for her dress that she hadn't been able to resist buying them to wear. Now, sitting beside an elaborate fountain in the lobby as she waited for Prithvi to arrive, Damini wondered if they had been such a good idea.
They were beautiful, but perhaps they were, a bit much like a date? She realised suddenly..
Everybody else in the hotel was dressed so formally and Damini had seen one or two glances at her with a raised eyebrows. The gesture reminded her sharply of Prithvi.
He would be here any minute. Damini looked at her watch again, trying to ignore her nervesness. Really, she was being ridiculous! Damini sat upright.
This was an interview, not a date. She would be fine. All she had to do was be cool and professional, and let Prithvi know that as far as she was concerned the kiss had been no more than a mildly unusual interviewing technique. She did not meant to kiss him passionatly that was an accident too...
'Cool...professional...' she muttered to herself, only to find her eyes drawn back to her shoes. No, they weren't the right image! She would have to go and change. If she hurried, she could get up to her room and back before he arrived.
Damini turned towards the lifts, but she had only taken two steps before the lift doors opened and Prithvi stand out into thelobby.
The air freezed as per Damini at the.sight of him, and she stopped dead, conscious of a sense of recognition so sharp that it was almost a shock. It wasn't that she hadn't expected to recognise Prithvi, it was just that she hadn't been prepared for him to seem quite so, familiar. It was as if she had always known that handsome face, the deep eyes.
Pausing in the middle of the lobby, Prithvi look around until he found Damini. Damini's felt like her heart was beating in her throat as he came towards her. 'Hi!' She smiled nervously, wincing inwardly as she heard her own voice. Cool and professional? Yeah, sure Clearing her throat, Damini held out her hand. "Thank you for considering me for the post.'
There was an odd look in Prithvi's eyes as he inspected her subjecting her to an intense but strangely impersonal scrutiny. His gaze travelled from her face to toe. One corner of his lipe curved for little smile, and he lifted his eyes to Damini's. 'It's a pleasure,' he said. He took her hand, and the moment his fingers closed around hers Damini felt her composure shattered. His clasp was warm and firm, and the touch of his palm sent little tingles down her arm. All he had to do was shake her hand and she would be breaking as a glass in that sensation she felt if they'd kissed all
over again. It wasn't fair, be professiona she reminded herself..
'You're very formal,' said Prithvi, and his eyes shinned. 'We kissed last time we met,' he reminded her.
As if she would have forgotten. As if she couldn't still feel his touch beneath her fingers, his lips on hers, the deep, dangerous twist of excitement. As if she hadn't relived every second of that kiss and how it had felt as his arm came round her like an iron bar and lifted her
effortlessly against him.
Damini bite her lips consiously. 'That was just because I wanted an interview and it was not a kiss, only goodbye gesture as you mentioned,' she said, raising her voice She wished he would let her hand go, but when she tried to pull it away Prithvi's grip tightened. 'It worked,' he said, a glimmer of amusement in his eyes as he drew her inexorably towards him, 'but this time let's say hi because we're pleased to see each other.'
It was just like the last time, only different was that this time it was Prithvi who made the first move, Prithvi whose lips brushed against her cheek.
To anyone watching it must have seemed the warmest welcome by kiss, but Damini's senses were drumming beneath her skin, she was suddenly overwhelmed by an uncconscious urge to hug him, she turned her head and let their lips meet, so that they can kiss just as they had kissed before.
For one dizzying moment she was sure that Prithvi was going to do just that, and she closed her eyes, but after a short hesitations Prithvi lifted his head and let her go-Damini's eyes snapped open and her cheeks burned with a mixture of disappointment and fury at her own foolishness in thinking it might have been anything else.
Had Prithvi guessed how close she had come to making a complete idiot of herself? Damini slid a glance at him from under her lashes, but his expression was impossible to read. He looked as frustrate as ever and closed his eyes.
'Come,' said Prithvi, taking her arm. 'We'll have a drink before we go.' He took her towards a table. A barman materialised in response to Prithvi's barely lifted finger. 'Champagne,' ordered Prithvi without even looking at him.'Certainly, sir.' 'Champagne?' Damini asked with shaking voice...'What are we celebrating?'
'The fact that you came.' he replied with smile.
Damini stared at him. She wasn't sure what she had been expecting him to say. Perhaps a billion-dollar deal closed, or a rival company crushed. Anything except what he had said. 'Did you think that I wouldn't?' she asked cautiously.
Prithvi seemed to consider the matter. 'I wasn't sure,' he said eventually.
'I wouldn't have kissed you if I hadn't really wanted you to consider me for the job,' Damini pointed out, and was then afraid that it might seem as if she was protesting just a little too much.
'True,But I did wonder if you might have changed your mind once I'd left. There must have been plenty of people there trying to persuade you that it would be a terrible mistake to have anything to do with me. Or are you going to tell me that nobody noticed the affectionate farewell you gave me?'
"They noticed all right,' said Damini with feeling, remembering the moment when she had turned from the doors to face the stares of groups. 'Mum wasn't very pleased.'
(That was understatement of the year. Her mother hadn't actually seen the kiss, but she had heard plenty about it and she had been appalled).
'It was bad enough him turning up at the wedding at all, without you kissing him! What on earth possessed you to make such an exhibition of yourself?'
'I felt sorry for him,' Damini had said slowly to her mom. She had been strangely reluctant to admit the truth about that kiss. If she'd told her mother that she had had to kiss Prithvi to get him to consider her for a job, it would only have added to his reputation, and that was bad enough as it was. Damini couldn't think of any good reason why Prithvi's
reputation should matter to her; she just knew that she didn't want to be responsible for ruined it any further.
'Sorry for Prithvi Saxena? You must be the first person ever to feel that. That was probably true, Damini had thought inside. It wasn't easy to pity a man like Prithvi. He was too tough, too competent, too indifferent to what people thought of him.
'He wasn't exactly made to feel welcome,' she'd tried to explain to her mother. 'I felt as if I ought to make an effort to talk to him. We did invite him, after all.'
"That was sameer's fault who is new to this place,' her mother had grumbled. 'Why did he come, anyway? He didn't talk to anyone except you.'
'Maybe that's because nobody except me bothered to talk to him' Damini had said with a shade of defiance, even as she'd wondered what on earth she was doing defending Prithvi Saxena.
'Nobody except you would have thought they had to fling themselves into his arms just to be polite!' her mother had retorted, clearly baffled by Damini's behaviour. 'It's absolutely typical of you, Damini! You always go too far!'
Damini had given up then. She did feel a little guilty about having caused a scene ,at Roshni's wedding, but it wasn't as if she had hurt anyone's feelings. And she certainly didn't feel guilty enough to give up her best chance yet of a real job.
Muttering vaguely about the possibility of a job in Sydney as she'd left, Damini had prudently kept Prithvi Saxena's name out of it. Her mother would have a fit when she heard, but Damini would deal with that when— if—she got the job. ,
'She doesn't approve of me?' Prithvi broke into her thoughts. It was more of a statement than a question.
Her mother's words rang in Damini's ears: 'That Prithvi Saxena is not good! He never was and he never will be! He broke his poor father's heart, Damini, and he'll break a lot more hearts before he's finished, you mark my words. Don't you have anything to do with him!'
'Well...not really,' she said cautiously.
'Good,' he said coolly. 'I have to confess when I met you at your sister's wedding I thought you would be too nice. I had you down as the kind of person who has to be liked, but if you're prepared to meet me against your family's will, that means you've got what it takes after all.' '
Damini couldn't imagine anyone else being pleased to hear that they were thoroughly disliked. 'It means I need a job,' she told him honestly.
'I know.' Prithvi leant forward and looked straight into her puzzled blue eyes. 'I've got a feeling that it also means you could be just the girl I'm looking for!'
THE look in his eyes was making Damini's heart pound, and she could feel herself blushing. Don't be an idiot, she told herself fiercely. He's talking about a job. He's not interested in you. 'Great,' she said with an unconvincing smile.
To her relief, the barman arrived just then with an ice bucket. He set it down on the table between Prithvi and Damini, and her eyes widened at the label on the bottle as he drew it from the ice and eased out the cork with a subtle, extremely expensive pop. If this was the champagne Prithvi was
used to drinking, it was no wonder he had turned up his nose at what had been served at Roshni's wedding and refused to take one!
Prithvi waited until the barman had poured two glasses and went out. Prithvi leant forward and picked up his glass, chinking it against Damini's.
'Here's to a successful partnership!' he said.
Joined: 22 June 2008
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