THANKS FOR YOUR HEART TOUCHING COMMENTS……
SO LET’S CONTINUE…..
It took until the next morning for Swara to regret her kissing impulse of the night
before. In her baby-doll, she sat on the edge of her bed and rubbed her forehead. What had
she been thinking? No. That was the trouble. She hadn’t been thinking.
Swara sighed, pushed off the bed, and dragged herself into the shower. What she’d
done last night was try to rationalize what she’d wanted to do all along: kiss Sanskar. She’d
let her physical attraction for the man overrule her senses.
Swara stood under the shower with her head lifted toward the spray. Unfortunately,
she’d made a promise down there in the garage. She wasn’t leaving.
But that didn’t mean she had to proceed with this insane idea of ‘releasing’ Sanskar.
Why, every women’s magazine in the country, every self-help book on the shelves would
say as much. It was impossible to change a man. You had to accept him the way he was.
Swara wasn’t ready to accept Sanskar the way he was.
She stepped out of the shower, drew on a pair of shorts, and then wiggled into one of
her colorful tops. She was stuck here then, she thought. Seven-and-a-half more weeks.
But she wasn’t going to try to help, change, or improve Sanskar during that time.
Hungry for breakfast now, Swara went down the stairs. At the archway into the
morning room, she stopped short. Sanskar sat at the table with Laksh and Sahil.
Sanskar? Swara blinked. She’d been sure he’d skedaddle after that kiss in the garage.
She’d been certain he’d avoid her now more than ever. He wouldn’t want to have anything
to do with her or her proposed mission.
But there he sat, reading a newspaper. He looked up, caught Swara’s eye, and nodded
a greeting. As if there was nothing unusual about the situation, kiss included.
Suspicious, Swara stepped into the room. She squinted and took a seat across from
him. Pride aside, she knew Sanskar couldn’t possibly consider that kiss ignorable.
“‘Morning, Swara,” Sahil called from behind a bowl of cereal. “How was the opera?”
“Yes.” Laksh looked haggard, as if he’d woken much earlier than his wont. “How did
you two enjoy yourselves?”
They were obviously checking up on their bet. Considering Laksh’s evident exhaustion,
Swara wondered just how high the stakes were in this wager. She gave them both a big,
noncommittal smile. “The opera was fantastic.”
“You were home later than we expected.” Laksh’s eyes narrowed as he fingered the
edge of the unused plate in front of him.
“You waited up?” Swara felt an instant of embarrassment, then realized Laksh couldn’t
have witnessed what had happened in the garage, even if he had waited up.
“I was…on the Internet,” Laksh explained. “You know how you can lose track of
“Oh, yes,” Swara agreed sweetly, only mildly annoyed now. “All those adult websites.”
Sanskar snorted — the first hint he was even following the conversation — and Laksh
“It’s a legitimate user group,” Laksh claimed. “Besides, Sanskar’s the one who needs
Sahil snickered, though Swara couldn’t imagine he knew what they were talking
about. Meanwhile, Sanskar merely smiled and folded over a page in his newspaper.
Laksh turned to him.
“What’s going on with you, Sanskar? I’m about to lose my bet here.”
“Yes, I’m afraid you may lose that bet.” Sanskar lowered his newspaper.
“You see, Swara thinks she’s going to ‘release’ me. It’s a project that may take some time.”
Laksh shot Swara a confused look, while Swara stared at Sanskar. So, he knew about the
bet. And he casually told the others what she’d said last night in the garage, in his arms…as
if it were some big joke.
Well, it had certainly been stupid, but it hadn’t been a joke. At the time she’d been
serious and sincere.
Now she felt her face go hot.
Over his newspaper, Sanskar gave Swara a patronizing smile. “Where were you going to
start this morning, Swara? I’m planning on going to the office, yes, even on a sunny Sunday
morning. What ploy will you use to try to stop me, to…save me from myself?”
The room went so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Swara felt the heat in her face
spread to the rest of her body. He was deliberately mocking her. It made no difference that
Swara had been mocking herself just a few minutes before.
“You think I can’t do it?” Her voice come out low.
Sanskar didn’t appear to realize that her question was genuine. He continued his smug
A part of Swara realized she was being goaded. Maybe Sanskar even thought he was
going to scare her off. Well! He was having the opposite effect. She was making a
complete about-face regarding his reformation. In fact, her opinion of the odds of success
just leaped upward.
Not only could she reform him, she would. She’d wrestle ‘her’ Sanskar out of the guy if
she had to pin him to the mat. She smiled very slowly. “All right, then. You’re on.”
“You just issued a challenge. I’m taking you up on it.”
Sanskar’s expression managed to get more self-satisfied. “But I thought you were the
one who was challenging me?” he purred.
“Is that how you see it?”
“Yes. You’re the one who — ” Sanskar stopped himself, the smugness suddenly gone
and color brightening his face. Swara smiled. She knew what he’d been about to say. You’re
the one who kissed me.
Sanskar cleared his throat and threw his napkin on the table. “It doesn’t matter who’s
challenging whom. You think I need to be ‘released.’ I’m curious. How do you intend to
do such a thing, particularly given there is no hidden personality caged inside of me?”
Sanskar raised his eyebrows.
Swara raised her eyebrows back. If that was true, then why did he bring it up?
Brows still raised, Sanskar stood from the table. “Laksh’s hypnotic suggestion had
nothing to do with the ‘real me.'”
“No?” She recalled Sanskar making the point that at least a part of him had been
Sanskar huffed a sigh. “I suppose you’ll be dropping in on me today, or providing some
other, equivalent distraction?”
A flicker of worry crossed Sanskar’s face at this non-reply, but he soon retrieved his
obnoxious smile. “Oh, good,” he said. “A surprise.”
The unholy condescension — ! Swara felt her palm itch. She blinked, astonished at
herself. She’d actually wanted to smack him.
At that moment Sanskar met her eyes squarely. Swara’s conquering high tripped on its
way up to the clouds. He’d done that. He’d made her feel that way.
Out of control.
As Sanskar kept his eyes on Swara, a gleam rose up in them. She could swear he’d come
to the same realization she just had: that he had as much effect on her as she had on him.
“Good morning, then,” Sanskar said. Like a man who’d accomplished his goal, he
smiled, inclined his head, and walked out of the room.
Silence followed his departure, a silence broken only by the sound of Sanskar’s footsteps
receding down the hall. Sahil waited until the footsteps could no longer be heard, then
moved his cereal bowl aside. “So, what’re you going to do, Swara?”
“Yes.” Laksh sounded curious, too. “What now?”
Swara absently massaged her palm. Huh. Like she was going to tell the two of them,
assuming she had the foggiest idea. Besides, she was still shook up. This war was not
going to be one-sided. Sanskar had his defenses; strong, wickedly intelligent defenses. She
was going to have to respect that, to respect him.
“You could win me my bet,” Laksh suggested.
“Leave him?” Swara frowned.
Laksh grinned. “I take it that’s a ‘no’?”
“It would hardly accomplish what I’m after.”
Laksh rubbed his chin. “No, I guess not.”
He stopped rubbing and looked at Swara.
“For the record, I’m not a fan of you leaving.”
Swara’s attention went from distracted to arrested. “You aren’t?”
Laksh’s smile quirked.
“Like I said before, you distract Sanskar. Plus — ” His grin went
wide. “I happen to like you.”
Swara’s eyebrows shot up. Was that so? She switched her gaze to Sahil. He wore
much the same expression as Laksh, restrained hope.
Swara felt a leap of her own hope.
Well, what do you know? She had a pair of allies here. Or at least…sympathetic
bystanders. She smiled.
“Okay, then. We’re all on the same page.”
“What?” Sahil asked.
“She means we all agree,” Laksh explained, but squinted at Swara.
“Though I’m not sure we do. I want you to stay, Swara, but I don’t think you can change Sanskar.”
“Not change him.” Swara tsked. “Release him.”
“Uh huh,” Laksh said, and squinted even harder. Sahil bent on Swara a very similar
expression, one of confusion and concern.
“What?” Swara asked.
“Nothin’,” Sahil claimed.
“Oh, not a thing,” Laksh agreed.
But they both kept looking at Swara in a most peculiar manner until she got up from
the table and, still wondering how to get at the real Sanskar, left the room.
Swara did not surprise Sanskar at the office that Sunday. Alone on the executive floor, he
found his concentration slipping. He kept expecting a call from the guard downstairs or a
knock on the hall door. It never happened.
At the office, he ordered a salad for dinner, then went home about eleven p.m. He
braced himself as he walked the path from the garage to the house. But no curvy female
jumped out of the bushes. Except for the crickets, all was quiet along the country path.
Inside the house, it was even quieter. Sanskar held his breath to listen. But nobody
lurked in the darkness of the kitchen, no tantalizing temptation came out of the shadows.
He went into the hall, still breathing shallow, straining his ears. But nothing, nobody.
He went up the stairs.
Maybe she’s left. He halted at the top of the stairs with a peculiar, sinking sensation.
He’d taunted her that morning, deliberately mocked her. Maybe he’d gone far enough to
make her quit the scene altogether.
No. Sanskar shook his head. The woman was stubborn. She’d made up her mind and she
would act on her theory, baseless as it was.
Not that he wanted her to remain in his home, of course, but he was sure that she had.
Sanskar hesitated at the top of the stairs. Well, almost sure.
In the midnight house, Sanskar stole silently toward Swara’s room.
He knew he was being ridiculous. Inconsistent. But he needed to know. Was she still
When he came to her door, he found it closed.
Sanskar stood in the dark hallway and fought an urge to open her door. Was she,
indeed, inside her bedroom?
I’m acting like a fool. Sanskar took a step back. He couldn’t open Swara’s bedroom door
just to satisfy his curiosity, intense as it might be.
But he might open it for another reason. Sanskar tilted his head. He could open it to
discover if she were willing to go through with her implied invitation of the night before in
Facing her closed door in the hall, Sanskar felt his body warm and swell toward arousal.
He snorted softly. Why, Swara didn’t have to jump out at him from the bushes in the dark.
He could do a bang-up job of getting seduced all by himself. Look at him.
He snorted again and took a deliberate step back.
She was inside the bedroom. Of course she was, or her door wouldn’t be closed but
open, ready for the staff to clean the room in the morning.
Sanskar felt a flood of relief at this reasoning. He didn’t question the relief, but turned
and strode cheerfully to his own bedroom.
The next morning he exercised in the basement gym and then showered, all at his
usual hour. Or at least, it was his usual hour since Swara had moved in and he’d taken
steps to avoid her. Dressed and ready to drive to the city, he took a detour on his way out
the door, however, poking his nose into the morning room. There he carefully counted
how many plates had been set out for breakfast.
Confirming her presence in the house gave him a satisfaction that was no doubt
absurd. Besides, she was going to confirm the matter herself soon — and outrageously.
Once at his office downtown, Sanskar alerted Mrs. Barnes to let him know immediately
when his wife arrived. He made sure to sound as if he was eager for the occasion.
It was a busy day. But between the phone calls and the dictating, Sanskar kept half an
ear open, waiting for Mrs. Barnes’ warning.
It never came. Swara didn’t come. She didn’t even call.
Okay, she’d be waiting for him at the house then, Sanskar thought. Dinner. She’d think
to catch him at the family meal. He decided not to work late tonight. He could face the
music. Accordingly, he came home ten minutes before the dinner hour.
Indeed, Sanskar was so early he decided to enter the house via the front door. He
sauntered down the hall and leisurely climbed the stairs. But he saw no one. Perhaps they
were already sitting at the table? In his bedroom, he quickly changed his clothes, putting
on a polo shirt and slacks. He wouldn’t be caught as the awkward, stilted one at dinner
Moving leisurely again, he ambled down the stairs. He opened the door to the dining
It was empty.
Sanskar frowned, then remembered to check the patio outside. But the wrought iron
table and chairs were uninhabited. Frowning harder, he went into the kitchen.
Roberto was eating at the counter. He gulped and stood when Sanskar walked into the
Sanskar didn’t bother with a greeting. “Where is everybody?”
Roberto wiped his mouth with a napkin.
“Went out to eat, sir. I believe Chuck E. Cheese was mentioned.”
“Chuck E. Cheese?”
Sanskar waved a hand. “That video game and clown place?”
“Uh, I believe that’s the one, yes.”
Sanskar gazed at Roberto, bewildered. It wasn’t the place so much as that they’d left
without him. Wouldn’t this have been on Swara’s list for his reformation, to dine at such an
“Have you had dinner, sir?” Roberto asked. “Would you like me to fix you an
Sanskar shook his head.
“A crepe, then, sir?”
“No, no, I mean an omelet will be fine.” Sanskar withdrew to let Roberto cook. Swara
hadn’t even waited for him to come home — on time. She hadn’t even given him a chance
to see her.
Bemused, he ate his omelet alone in the dining room.
At nine that night, Maggie informed Sanskar that Swara had called. She, Sahil, and
Laksh were going to a movie. By eleven, the group had not returned home. Sanskar went up
For the next three days he saw neither hide nor hair of Swara. He made no effort to
avoid her, even returning to his normal morning schedule. Yet their paths did not cross.
It was…unsettling. Sanskar kept preparing for the surprise attack. None came.
What, he wondered, was she up to?
On the fourth day, he woke up later than usual. Purely accidental. But the upshot was
he exercised later than usual, showered and went down for breakfast all later than his
norm. For this reason, his unusual tardiness, Sanskar happened to be walking up the stairs
after his breakfast when Swara came down. Exuding good health and cheer, she was
dressed in shorts and a grass-green cut-off top.
Sanskar’s heart banged against the wall of his chest. A stupid reaction, but Sanskar thought
he disguised it well. He nodded as if he’d only seen Swara an hour before and not four days.
“Good morning,” he said.
“Good morning,” she replied, and smiled brightly.
Staying true to his conceit that he’d only seen her an hour before and this meeting was
no big deal, Sanskar kept going up the stairs. Her step lively, Swara continued down.
And that was that. From the top of the stairs, Sanskar could hear her sandals slapping
down the hall in the direction of the morning room. She hadn’t tried to stop him, she hadn’t
even tried to talk to him. Nothing. His skin tight, Sanskar stalked toward his room.
He wasn’t going to turn around. He wasn’t going to change his routine to seek her
out. Why, then she would know he gave a damn whether or not he saw her.
And that’s when he got it. Sanskar halted so abruptly he nearly stumbled on the second
She was waiting for him to approach her.
He almost laughed out loud. Him, seek her out? Him, deliberately put himself in the
path of temptation? It would be a cold day in hell. He was not weak. He had self-control.
And he had no need whatsoever for Swara or her silly, romantic games.
Letting out a breath, Sanskar smiled and proceeded to his room. He felt much better,
having figured it out. Now he was back in control.
Sanskar drove to the city and his office as per usual. He made phone calls, he dictated
memos. But at odd times during the day he found himself staring into space. Mrs. Barnes
had to call him three times to answer his own phone. He began to pace.
Shortly after lunch he admitted he was weak. But he paced some more, determined
not to give in to the urge that had seized him. He was not going to go home early to find
her. He wasn’t.
“Fishing?” Sanskar said.
Out by the limousine in the early afternoon sunshine of the front drive, Maggie smiled
at him. “Where the stream runs along the north fence. Miss Williams thought they’d have
the best luck there.”
“Fishing,” Sanskar said again. He didn’t know why he was finding this so incredible. It
was exactly the kind of thing Swara would do. She’d probably go about it by tying string to
a pair of sticks and baiting them with kitchen cheese. Then she’d probably believe she was
actually going to catch something. And make Sahil believe it, too.
“Were you going to join them?” Maggie asked.
Sanskar gave her a sidelong glance. “I came home to fetch a staff report.” He closed the
back door of the car. “I’ll go inside and get it. Only be a minute.”
Maggie smiled. Beside the car, Jackson nodded.
Sanskar went into the house. The staff report he wanted was in the study. Sanskar was on
his way to get it. He really was. He had not come home to see Swara. It was a plain,
provable fact that he suddenly, urgently needed the report that he’d left here at home in his
As Sanskar made for the study, he saw Laksh trotting down the stairs. Dressed for tennis,
he was probably emerging from his room for the first time that day. Laksh stopped and
dropped his jaw when he saw Sanskar.
Really, Sanskar thought, mentally shaking his head. His cousin didn’t have nearly enough
to do if such a banal sight as himself at home during a weekday was going to shock him.
Sanskar walked right past Laksh staring after him — and past the study door.
Fishing, he thought. Swara was sitting out there in the sun with Sahil in some kind of
Huckleberry Finn imitation. She presumed she was teaching his little brother how to ‘have
fun.’ She thought Sanskar didn’t know how.
Like hell he didn’t.
With a snort, Sanskar went all the way down the hall to the game room. Around the
other side of a covered, competition-size billiard table he opened the cabinet that held his
He had to wipe a layer of dust off the tackle box. It must have been six years since
he’d gone on that fly-fishing weekend with old man Harris. Being able to cast properly for
trout had sealed the deal on acquiring Harris’ R&D company. Sanskar blew a cobweb off the
All right, so he hadn’t picked up the fishing gear in six years. That didn’t mean he
didn’t know how to have fun. It didn’t mean his life wasn’t full enough, well-rounded
enough. And he certainly didn’t need to be ‘released.’
Carrying the fishing gear, Sanskar opened the French doors that led outside.
He would show her.
Fishing. It seemed an appropriate activity to Swara, considering that’s what she’d been
doing for the past four days with Sanskar. Casting her line and hoping. Now she leaned on
the grassy bank, a baseball cap tipped over her face, and sighed.
She was having no more luck with Sanskar than she was with the jerry-rigged stick rod
and cheddar cheese bait. Not so much as a nibble.
Lazing around on this warm, idyllic afternoon, she had to wonder if she’d made a
After the challenge thrown down in the morning room on Sunday morning, Swara had
thought hard about her next move. In the end she’d decided to go with her original
impulse, which was to leave the hunting to her quarry. She figured Sanskar’s own secret
desire for self-liberation would drive him to seek her out. She thought it would be better
for him to face and acknowledge for himself that he wanted something different in his life.
That’s what she’d thought.
Now she didn’t know what to think. He’d passed her that morning on the stairs as if
she were a piece of furniture.
Swara bit her lower lip. All right, fine. She’d known success wouldn’t happen right
away. Sanskar would resist. He’d think he knew better than to go after the freedom he truly
wanted. He’d think it was wise to avoid such a goal, using every ounce of self-sacrificing
discipline he owned.
But Swara’d been sure he’d have broken by now, or at least bent.
A few feet down from Swara, Sahil sat hunched over his own homemade rod. He
stared fixedly into the stream. The fishing that had started as a whim on Swara’s part had
gone over big with Sahil. The sun beat down with a pleasant warmth. Even though her
scheme hadn’t panned out — yet — she could at least be enjoying the day. But as Swara
rested on her elbows, she felt grumpy and unsettled.
She missed Sanskar.
Swara stared at the sparkling stream. She missed him? How could she miss him? He
was grim, remote, unappreciative. They’d never had a conversation in which they’d
actually agreed on anything.
But as Swara half sat, half lay there, gazing at the stream, she felt an emptiness, a mild
but unignorable yearning inside. She missed Sanskar’s handsome, forbidding face. She missed
the cool intelligence in his eyes. She missed his dry wit, his intensity, and the unfailing
good manners with which he treated her.
Swara blinked at the sunbeams shooting off the water.
This was crazy. Was she starting to like him? That is, was she starting to like ‘this’
Sanskar, unliberated, without any of the qualities of the man she’d married in Las Vegas?
“Hey, you’re swishing the water.” Sahil gave Swara an irritated look. “You told me
we had to keep still.”
“Still. Oh yeah, right.” Swara made an effort to calm the rod she held. “Sorry about
“It’s okay.” Sahil went back to staring at his line. “Just don’t do it again.”
Swara gripped her rod tightly. No, she wouldn’t swish the water again. Because it was
impossible. She wasn’t starting to like ‘this’ Sanskar. That would be…fickle, on top of stupid,
disastrous, and silly.
The only man she was interested in was the one she’d married and he, apparently, was
nowhere to be found. He certainly hadn’t tried to seek Swara out. He hadn’t…shown
himself at all.
At that moment, the bushes across the meadow parted. A man incongruously dressed
in a three-piece Italian suit and crisp red silk tie proceeded to push through.
“Sanskar,” Sahil remarked, with supreme indifference. He turned back to stare at his
line. Sanskar, meanwhile, began stomping through the wildflowers and down the hill toward them.