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Arnav kept staring blankly at the screen of his laptop. His mind was far, far away from the figures in the screen. He had always thought he was in control of his life. But since he let Khushi Kumari Gupta in his life, he could feel his control loosening. Things were going haywire; he could feel things going the way he did not want to. He was all set to make everything right today. He made a great start and things were going fine; but he definitely missed some points while planning.
How did he forget Simran in the process? How did he forget Khushi was his PA only for a few days? And above all .. why on earth he utilized his time & wits to get things normal with her? Wait .. normal? Getting her to sit beside him in his car every morning, taking every little opportunity to feel her touch & nearness, giving her attention to the extent of wanting to listen to her self-talk – these were not normal by any standard in Arnav Singh Raizada's world.
Khushi Kumari Gupta! Arnav ran his fingers roughly through his hair in frustration. It was all her fault! She not only reacted to him in the most unpredictable manners but also somehow managed to derive unlikely reactions from him too. It was high time he got rid of her, Arnav concluded. Only because of her, his peaceful life was suddenly up on a roller coaster ride and he could not afford it. Yes, this was good, in fact, that Simran was back. He could now just go back to giving her morning lifts. Or may be he could just stop giving her any attention at all. Yes, not even morning lifts.
Nothing was letting Arnav be in peace. As time went by, Arnav started to get more & more pissed at himself. What was he thinking when he wiped away the imaginary something off her lips? Why was he letting impulsion take over? She did not want to come to office with him anyways .. why did he convince her to get into his car again?
Arnav shut his laptop with a thud in frustration. Mistakes after mistakes .. Khushi Kumari Gupta was nothing but a big distraction in his life. And .. no, he was not going to allow her to ruin his life. Since when Arnav Singh Raizada needed a woman to satisfy his olfactory needs?
Arnav walked out of his cabin and stopped in front of Simran's desk. Simran looked up to him with a surprised look because this had never happened to her ever in her three years' career. She quickly stood up.
"Sir, do you need anything?"
She watched in surprise, for the first time in her life, her boss to get flustered and perhaps a little confused. What was wrong with ASR?
"Mmm .. why are you doing office today?"
Simran's jaw dropped. Arnav noticed.
"I mean .. you don't look fully recovered yet. May be you should take rest for a day or two more .. till you feel better."
Arnav did not know what to do with himself. "What the f**k are you doing, Arnav," he mentally kicked himself, "Why are you trying to send her on leave again?" He got even more frustrated as he read the shock in Simran's eyes. He could not blame her. This was not himself. He had to hold rein before things went more beyond control.
"If it was viral, I would want you to be rather at home than making everyone else sick here."
Simran sighed in relief. Now that was ASR. She was starting to be worried if ASR was unwell.
"No, Sir. It was just cold. I hope it was not very troublesome for you without me .."
"No. Khu .. aaa .. Ms. Gupta did fine."
The silence was getting awkward as Simran kept looking at Arnav not knowing what was expected of her.
"Aa .. ask Ms. Gupta to meet me in my cabin. Now."
Arnav turned and walked into his cabin with long ASRish strides but more to run away from getting caught of his oscillating nerves. He had already shocked Simran more than she could take. He turned from the door and put extra effort to sound his usual.
"And get me a coffee .. now."
Only five minutes passed. Arnav started to get irritated already. What was taking Simran so long to get the coffee? He needed the caffeine shots badly .. before Khushi arrived. Just when he decided to call Simran to lash out on her, there were knocks on his door.
Arnav knew who it was even before she walked in. She had this unique way of knocking at the door .. She always knocked thrice in a row - short, mild knocks with short, steady breaks. Like her, her knocks were also a mix of little impatience, straightforwardness, feminine softness & confidence hidden under a bushel. Everything she did, mocked Arnav at his denial because everything she did screamed at him - she was different.
Arnav bit his lips. Why he noticed everything about her? And moreover, why on earth he remembered everything about her? How come he noticed that the number of bangles on her both hands was not same? How come he was still feeling restless to fix her dori that was tied unevenly? Yes. He was right. Khushi Kumari Gupta was nothing but a big, red danger sign in his life. She was the biggest distraction that was ruining the harmony of his life. And yes, he was going to get rid of her.
Enough of craziness. Enough of nonsense indulgence.
"Come in," a determined Arnav finally asked her in an extra cold voice.
As Khushi walked in, a spasm of freshness hit his senses.
"Oh no," Arnav grumbled as he felt her intoxicating lemony fragrance slowly numbing his senses, calming his frustration .. And eventually making him forget his most sanest thoughts, reasons and logics. Getting rid of her was not going to be easy .. But he would make it happen.
Arnav noticed the mug of steaming coffee in her hand. He realized he never even smelt the strong coffee when she was around. It was only her .. & her. His eyes moved to her face that seemed slightly disturbed – her eyes seemed skeptic. As he met her eyes, she quickly looked away & got busy to move aside the loose tendrils messing with her smooth, kissable forehead. Arnav groaned inwardly. He had not known a few words even existed in his dictionary.
Khushi stepped forward and proceeded to keep the mug on his desk. As she bended over the chairs, Arnav quickly stretched his hand to take the mug from her. Khushi looked at him in surprise and then handed the mug over to him cautiously, avoiding any contact. She saw him flinch silently as he got hold of the hot mug looking at her.
"Are you ok, Arnavji?"
"Mmm .. yes."
"Hold the mug properly. I think you are burning your hand."
Arnav quickly kept the mug on the desk. He felt the slight irritation on his palm as he looked away from her. He jerked himself mentally. He needed to focus now. It was not time to be lost again.
Arnav sat down & leaned back against the backrest. He motioned her to sit.
"No. I am fine."
"It is ok, Arnavji. Simran-ji said you wanted to see me."
Arnav clenched his fist in frustration. Why did she always have to make things difficult for him? And why did he even bother if she was standing? Let her.
"Well .. aa .. I just wanted to tell you that you did good in absence of Simran."
"Thank you, Arnavji."
"So .. Lavanya is not coming back this week too. Right?"
"So .. what will you be doing this week?"
Khushi tried to figure out where this conversation was heading to as she tried to read his eyes & expressions. His face was showing his usual indifference but his eyes .. seemed confused.
"I will do what I do the other time La-ji is on leave."
"And .. what is that?"
"I take care of her cabin .. sort her e-mails .. reply to mails when needed .. sort her parcels & mails .."
"That's not enough work for 8 hours."
Khushi blinked. She was a PA and that's how a PA's life is. If her boss was on leave, she was not supposed to have work.
Arnav watched her face taking in a change of expression. She was confused. It was time to tell her ..
"Why don't you go on leave too .. for rest of the week?"
Khushi blinked again.
"I don't need leave now."
"I have checked with HR. You have availed only 2 leaves so far. You still have lots of annual leaves pending. So .. I would suggest you go on leave."
And thus allow me to take a break too, Arnav thought silently. He would not have to, more specifically, would not be able to, give her lift if she was on leave. His plan was simple – to force himself out of the habit. With no mental obligation or with nothing to feel guilty of, he was sure he could do it. When she would come back, it would be like things were a month back. They would hardly see each other. Things would really be back to normal. And he could be himself again – back to his normal self.
Devi Maiya held her breath as she waited for Khushi to play her card.
"I don't want to take leave now. I will need long leave some time later. So I am saving my leaves."
Arnav clenched his fist again in frustration. She was never easy.
"Long leave? What for? Will you be going somewhere?"
"Sort of. I might."
Arnav stared at her trying to understand what she was saying. Khushi swallowed again.
"My parents are trying to fix my marriage. They have already found me a suitable groom. Though I have not given my consent yet .. but I don't think I can stretch it too far. So when my wedding will take place, I will need long leave .. might be 2-3 weeks .. wedding preparations and then .. may be .. woh .. going away for some time."
Arnav heard what she said. He saw her not meeting his eyes for once as she spoke. And when she finished, she looked straight into his eyes.
This was bad! Arnav had not been so loss of words in a long time. How was he supposed to react? As her employer, he was supposed to be happy that she planned her leave so well and also that she would be getting married. But what was that sudden twitch in his heart? And what was that alarm that suddenly grappled him?
Things were again going out of his hand. She was just supposed to be on leave and then away from him. She was not supposed to get married!
Getting married .. belonging to someone else .. someone else being showered with her affection .. someone else to listen to her self-talk .. someone else to be the luckiest man on earth to feel her touch .. .. .. did she just try to say she would be away on honeymoon?
Seconds passed. Minutes passed.
Two confused souls were trying to send signals to the other and to read if the other one sent any. One wanted to tell she did not want to go away. The other wanted to tell he did not want her to go away. Neither perhaps could listen what the other really wanted to say. The novelty of the emotions they were feeling did not let them decipher what was running below the surface but they both knew the last thing they wanted was to be apart.
Arnav saw Khushi's eyes slowly losing something.
"You will be assisting with the Fashion Show till Lavanya is back. Go & meet, Maddy. I will tell him where you can help him."
Khushi knew she was supposed to be super excited at what Arnav told her. If it was any other time, she probably would have started clapping and jumping in joy at this opportunity. Working for AR Fashion Show, assisting Maddy – this would have been her dream come true.
Khushi feigned a smile.
"Thank you, Arnav-ji. Can I leave now?"
Khushi turned and hurriedly walked towards the door. She needed to be out of this room, away from him. She stopped at the door as Arnav called her.
Khushi turned .. not knowing what to expect but still with a light of hope in her heart.
Khushi pressed her lips into a smile and turned away to leave as her heart sank. She had no idea why tears were trying to force out of her eyes. Arnav had behaved much better than usual with her today. He practically thanked & appreciated her and also offered her something good to work on. Then why did she feel so down? She almost ran out of the room and rushed towards the washroom. She could really use some privacy now.
Devi Maiya smiled. Khushi really got him all wrong this time.
Arnav was so far away from being nonchalant as he saw her leave, leaving him alone & tensed. He changed his decision of sending her on leave not because he wanted to allow her a long wedding leave. The word "wedding" itself was spinning his head. Yes, this posed as horns of a great dilemma for him .. but he had done only what he could figure out he wanted right now.
He did not want her away.
Devi Maiya smiled again.
A ray of light has finally broken through his locked heart.
There was hope.
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