Arnav and Khushi walked ahead of
Akash as they entered Shantivan. Deviyaani Raizada was waiting in the entrance
for them. She didn't waste any time as she walked towards them. This was
absolutely ridiculous and both Arnav and Khushi would be getting a piece of her
mind today she thought with determination as she came to a stop in front of the
'Oh oh...' whispered the angel
into Arnav's ear as he caught sight of his grandmother. There was something in
her expression that made Arnav draw himself to his full height and square his
shoulders in preparation for a battle that he knew was coming his way.
Khushi was suprised to see
Nani-ji standing in the foyer. She glanced at Arnav and from his expression and
body language she knew instantly that something wasn't quite right in the
Raizada home. Instinctively she moved closer to Arnav as they gradually came to
a stop in front of Nani-ji.
Akash was busy reading a stock
market update on his phone and almost came to a crashing halt into Arnav's
back. He looked up to find his grandmother standing before them with a very
serious expression on her face. He cleared his throat, 'Hi Nani,' he said more
chirpily than he intended to.
Deviyani Raizada didn't let her
gaze waiver from Arnav as she spoke, 'Akash, Khushi Beta, I would like to speak
to Arnav...alone,' she said placing emphasis on the last word.
Akash nodded and quietly left the
room. Khushi hesitated and looked at Arnav. They exchanged a look and in an
instant Khushi knew that there was no way she was going to leave Arnav alone.
She quietly slid her hand into his and then looked up at Nani-ji.
Deviyani Raizada's finely plucked
eyebrows rose at the gesture of solidarity between her grandson and his new
wife. Deviyani cleared her throat; there was still a task waiting to be
completed. 'Come with me both of you,' she ordered with full authority.
Payal kept one eye on the clock
and the other on the news. She shook her head in disgust as she watched the two
news anchors barely contain their excitement as they recapped the headlines. The
media was acting as if all its Christmas's had come at once with the news of
Arnav Singh Raizada's wedding, then the escalation of the AR Corp stock prices
only to be capped off by the press conference after the intruder at AR Corp. Payal
had to admit that her brand spanking new brother-in-law's power packed press
conference had scored points in her heart. Not that Arnav jeeju was aware of it, but the way he had defended
and protected Khushi had managed to melt the titanium coated super tough heart
of one Miss Payal Kumari Gupta making her go 'awww' in the process; her sister
was one hell of a lucky girl to have a man like him watch her back. As she
looked out to the richly manicured lawns of Shantivan, Payal wistfully wondered
for a minute what it would be like to have someone like that in her life;
someone who would look at her as if she was the only woman in the entire
galaxy, someone who would protect her, someone who could turn all those dreams
into reality...dreams that she would never be caught dead admitting to having.
Her ears caught a distant sound and Payal smiled to herself as she heard the
Raizada helicopter descend onto the vast grounds of Shantivan. She couldn't
help but wonder if he was here too.
As Akash Singh Raizada watched
out of the foyer into the lounge area of their home, he heard his grandmother
order his brother and sister-in-law to follow her. Dadi's tone was a clear
indicator of her frame of mind; not happy at all. Quite mad actually. Perplexed
but still scrolling through the content on his phone he didn't notice the
tornado in his path until it made impact with him. Trying not go tumbling down,
he instinctively grabbed what was within reach; a very slender female waist. It
Payal had deliberately been
running through the door but she certainly had not planned on colliding with a
certain someone and the fact that he had caught her and broken their fall was a
bonus. As her body came into contact with his, Payal's first thought was 'I
think I just hit a jackpot!' this is was
promptly followed by another thought, 'wow, someone clearly works out!!' she
thought as her hand came to rest on his broad shoulder and she raised her head
to look up at him. She whispered, 'I'm so sorry Akash-ji, I didn't see
you,' she said.
'Next time you might want to
watch where you're going Miss Gupta,' he said quietly.
Payal was enjoying herself
immensely as she felt Mr always-as-cool-as-a-cucumber's heart beginning to
accelerate under her hand and then felt his chest rise sharply as he inhaled. Not
so cool now are we, she thought with a smirk.
Ordinarily Akash Singh Raizada
would have done the gentlemanly thing by graciously accepting the apology and
stepping aside but as he heard her innocent voice and then as he looked into
her eyes he saw that they were full of the mischievous intent, Akash immediately
knew this was no accident. In that instant Akash thought to himself, you have
no idea who you are messing around with Miss Gupta. He felt very unlike his
normal self and something almost devious welled up inside him; two could
certainly play this game he thought as his hand slid across her back bringing
her into complete contact with his torso with a dull thud on impact. Payal
Kumari Gupta gasped audibly. Containing his smile, Akash stepped back slightly
and bent his head so that his eyes were on level with hers, ' Next time you
might not be so lucky - not everyone in this place is as good at catching as I
am Miss Gupta,' he said in a low voice, 'maybe next time you pretend to fall -
just yell 'catch' and I might just be around to save you again,' he said as he
raised one eyebrow in challenge.
Oh crap! thought Payal as she saw his eyes darken and
narrow; clearly one nerdy, reserved and quiet Mr Akash Singh Raizada wasn't as
shy as she pegged him to be.
As he and Khushi both followed
Nani into her room which was on the ground floor of Shantivan, Arnav had to
admit that he had been very surprised at Khushi when she chose to go against
Nani and defiantly stood beside him. 'Oh come on... stop lying you big oaf; you
weren't only surprised, you decided that you love her ever more,' sniggered the
little devil into his ear. Arnav couldn't help but smile to himself.
Shutting the door, Deviyani
Raizada decided that there was no need to waste time and she launched straight
into the matter at hand. 'When I came home from the Mandir this morning, you
can imagine my surprise when Anjali told me that you had made the decision to
go to AR after releasing that media statement. You made a decision to go
despite knowing the level of... of... drama that your announcement would
create. Arnav, I'm not going to mince my
words here: what happened today at AR was absolutely unnecessary and completely
avoidable. Surely you must have thought about the consequences of taking Khushi
out of Shantivan today particularly after that media announcement?' she asked
with a look of displeasure pausing for breath before continuing. 'Thank God
that you were nearby and all that man wanted was Khushi's photo.' She shook her
head as she paced the room. 'Arnav, given your profile and wealth, have you
considered that he could have easily been someone who wanted to abduct her for
a ransom?' Deviyani asked, her eyes flashing with anger evident in her voice as
the thought of anyone wanting to harm her family chilled her bones.
Pausing to recompose herself,
Deviyani spoke in a quiet voice, 'Arnav, you need to understand that now you
are not alone and you have a responsibility to protect Khushi and ensure that
her wellbeing as much as possible. I know that you have put measures into place
to protect her now, but you should not put her into situations where she is at
risk and needs protection in the first place. I have always warned you about
being more careful with your safety and you have always brushed my concerns
aside - but what you did with Khushi today was irresponsible. Disregarding your
safety is one thing, but disregarding hers is something I will not accept
Arnav. You should have known better,' Deviyani said quietly but with a severe tone
of reprimand in her voice.
Khushi gulped as she glanced
sideways to look at Arnav just as she felt him flinch at his grandmother's
words, his jaw was clenched and she could see that he was respectfully trying
to control himself even though his gut reaction was to lash out at being
questioned. As she looked at him, Khushi couldn't help herself. 'Nani-ji, I
don't mean to speak out of turn or with any disrespect. I'm sorry that I have
been the reason for worry today but what happened today was also my fault and
not Arnav-ji's alone,' she said in a slightly shaky voice, 'I said that I
wanted to AR Corp to catch up with the work I have missed due to the wedding
and also to progress Jaleebi Junction.'
Khushi almost took a step back as
she watched Nani-ji's eyes narrow in consternation. Suddenly afraid that she
had seriously overstepped her mark, Khushi trembled slightly but held her
ground. Deviyani sighed as she shook her head slightly, 'Khushi beta, you may
have wanted to go but Chote should have known better than to let you. He
should have protected you from the danger - not put you into it!' she
said with an edge of frustration in her voice. Khushi was just about to speak
but paused as she felt Arnav squeeze her hand as if to hold her back but as her
gaze met and locked with his, she knew that come what may, he would always do
his best to protect her and not endanger her. Even though her heart was
pounding, her voice instantly became stronger as she turned back to face her
matriarch. 'Nani-ji what happened today isn't a risk that is going to change
with time. Whether it's today or in five years time, someone could still come
after me or after Arnav-ji for whatever reason. As our elder, I know that you don't
want any harm to come to us and we will try not to make ourselves easy targets.'
Khushi released Arnav's hand and slowly walked to the elder Raizada and placed
her hands on top of hers, 'Nani-ji, what happened today could have happened on
any day. Arnav-ji didn't deliberately put me in any danger or disregard my
safety at all. I have placed my trust in Arnav-ji, I know that he will never
ever deliberately put me in danger and if ever there is a situation like today,
he will do whatever it takes to ensure that I am safe. Please trust him like I
do,' she implored quietly.
Arnav couldn't help but watch
speechlessly as his little tigress emerged to protect him. There was a sense of
awe as well as another emotion he couldn't quite identify; he never had anyone
stand up for him and protecthim before. He glanced at his grandmother
to gauge her reaction.
This time Deviyani didn't try and
hide her smile as she stepped forward and cupped Khushi's face in one hand, her
voice softening dramatically and her eyes moistening slightly, 'For many years
chote has been protecting this family but now it looks like my grandson is not
the only one protecting everyone anymore,' she said as her smile broadened at
the look of amazement on Khushi's face. 'Khushi beta I am not offended or angry
at you for speaking up. I hope that you know that in our house everyone has a
right to express their opinion. Everyone might not agree with the opinion, but
we all respect each other enough to listen to each other's thoughts. As for
what happened today, you are right. These things can happen at any time,'
Deviyani sighed, 'I can't bear the thought of anything happening to you or
chote and I just want you both to be careful.'
Arnav stepped forward, 'Nani, I'm
sorry we scared you today,' he said quietly, 'Nani I know you think that I take
risks and if you had your way, you wouldn't let anyone leave your sight even
for a minute,' he said with a slight smile, 'but Nani, I think you know deep
down that I would never deliberately put any member of our family at
risk,' he said quietly.
Deviyani opened her mouth to
speak but decided against it. It was clear that the pair standing in front of
her were determined to stand united and defend each other to her. Sighing
inwardly, she knew that she had played her role as an elder in cautioning and
perhaps even reprimanding, but what she also knew was that this was their life
and like everyone else, these two would need to stumble and perhaps fall down
in order to learn how to regroup and stand up again. She would therefore
continue to play her part to support and guide them if and when required. Deviyani
looked at both children standing in front of her and nodded. She wasn't done
yet but now was not the time to have the second discussion; that would have to
wait until later. 'Go and freshen up, it's almost time for dinner and I'd like
us all to eat together today,' she said.
Arnav stepped out of the
washroom, drying his hands as his eyes scanned the room for Khushi. Tossing the
hand towel on a low lying settee in the corner of the room, he walked towards
the glass sliding doors of their bedroom finally catching a glimpse of his wife
sitting by the pool. She had changed into a simple light pink salwar kameez,
her face washed clean of any trace of makeup. He couldn't help but be amazed at
how tiny and vulnerable she looked. His chest tightened as he remembered
catching that photographer in her office and how his heart had frozen when he
saw the sheer look of terror on her face. Now as she gazed at the moonlight
reflected in the water, she still had an expression of wide-eyed innocence that
made him want to hold her close and protect her from everything bad. He
couldn't imagine what his life had been like before discovering this amazing
woman. Arnav sighed as he dragged one hand through his damp hair. The Arnav Singh
Raizada who thought that he was a solo operator in this world, one who didn't
need the support of others was now becoming a distant memory. He knew without a
shred of doubt that Khushi was now the centre of his universe. There was no way
he could survive without her in his world. Not even realising he was moving, he
had pulled Khushi to her feet and into his arms before he knew what he was
Khushi let out a small cry of
surprise as she felt herself being pulled up. She had been so lost in reliving
the events of the day that she no idea of when Arnav had come to her. Now he dragged
her into his arms and squeezed her so tightly she couldn't breathe. Slightly
confused, yet grateful for the contact she slid her arms around him. She felt
his lips brushing the top of her head and then his mouth grazed her forehead,
and then against her temple down to her cheek. He stopped as she felt a slight
tremor race across his body. Khushi couldn't help but respond to Arnav just as
intensely, her arms tightening around his waist. Suddenly the tumultuous events
of the day felt very overwhelming and Khushi wanted nothing more than to lose
herself in her husband as she desperately sought the solitude and comfort she
knew that she would find in his arms.
Neither knew how long they were
there for as they both tried desperately to control their fears and dread as they battled to push those
emotions back into the dark recesses of their mind. It was irrational they both
knew, but silently they both knew that Nani's words had hit home; deep down they
were petrified of losing each other and what they had shown her was fake
bravado. The irritating need to deeply breath
much needed oxygen into their burning lungs inevitably meant that the their
tight embrace had to be broken. Resting their foreheads against each other,
both Arnav and Khushi stared at each other. Words felt superficial. Touch felt
soothing and comforting. Inevitably a voice from outside their room finally broke
their quiet and alerting them to dinner.hi
First thank you to everyone who has sent me a message of condolence or words of encouragement either on the thread or via pm. The past three weeks have been very difficult and your kind words, thoughts and prayers have helped. To be honest, I really didn't feel like writing anymore but today somehow pen came to paper (or rather fingers to keyboard) and I've done this chapter. Its definitely not this best chapter, but I figure one day at a time.
This chapter and indeed this entire story is dedicated to my beloved Nani - she loved telling stories and I loved listening to them. I may never hear your words again Nani, but your words and stories will always live in my heart. I miss you.