THANKS FOR YOUR WONDERFUL AND HEART TOUCHING COMMENTS……
Swara was still burning as she braced for liftoff in the crowded jet out of Logan.
Hypnotized! How — how outrageous could a man get? Claimed he didn’t even remember
her! Glaring out the plane window, Swara thought of the hours they’d spent together, the
outpourings of their souls, so fast, so deep.
She’d told him everything; from her strict, but loving, upbringing as a preacher’s kid in
a small town outside of St. Louis, to how she’d nearly flunked out of school but had won
every dance contest around. He knew how lucky she’d felt to get the Las Vegas gig, but
how frustrated she was in finding a man who was serious about a relationship, and not one
who simply wanted an affair with a dancer.
He was going to forget all that? Her soul stripped bare?
And what about the other parts of her she’d stripped bare? What about the hours
they’d spent in her bed, hot, entwined, pleasured? Was he going to ‘forget’ that!
Throughout the plane flight Swara nursed her anger, although every so often a stray
thought crept in. Why had Sanskar looked so strange? With that grim slash of a mouth and
corporate demeanor, he’d seemed like a completely different person. And a whole building
was named after him?
That was when, for one tiny, wing beat of an instant, Swara would wonder if he’d been
telling the truth in that big fat office of his, if he’d really been hypnotized and had done
everything while in a trance.
But the instant of such credulity would pass quickly. Her anger would burn through
again. She wasn’t that stupid. Oh, she’d let men feed her some pretty incredible lines, but
she wasn’t about to eat this one. Hypnotized.
And to think she was married to him!
In her cramped airplane seat, Swara grimaced. Unfortunately, she had to recall that
she’d been the one to bring up marriage. After her last disastrous relationship, with a
musician who’d strung her on for months without committing, she’d decided to go back to
basics, back to the values with which she’d been raised. She’d decided she could no longer
go to bed with a man unless he was her husband.
Last Saturday night in the back seat of her car and locked in a hot, wet kiss with
Sanskar, the temptation had been strong to abandon this quaint little policy. He’d felt so good
around her; his arms so strong, his hands so clever.
But Swara had forced herself out of her sensual haze. Panting, she’d pushed back from
Sanskar. The look in his eyes then — Oh, not disappointed, not angry, but stricken. Yes,
he’d looked as if her pulling away hurt as much as a blow.
So Swara had explained the problem. She’d been terrified he would laugh. She was a
Las Vegas dancer, after all. She wasn’t loose, but hardly a virgin. So — holding out for
marriage? She’d expected an argument, persuasions.
Instead Sanskar had given her one long, intense look — and then asked her to marry
At the time, oh! — Swara had thought it so romantic. Sure, she hadn’t believed him at
first. But Sanskar had talked fast. He’d talked hard. And he’d truly seemed to be absolutely,
positively serious. He’d been so serious he’d made Swara feel that way, too. As if they were
meant to be together, not just for that night but for forever.
Serious! All he’d been serious about was getting her into bed.
Swara’s anger kept her going through the plane flight, the landing, and a cab ride
home. By the time she got to her apartment, however, it all began to catch up to her. She
hadn’t slept the night before, or the night before that. She was worn to the bone.
At the front door, her key wobbled in the lock. “Come on, come on,” Swara muttered.
“Don’t get picky on me now.” The tumblers caught and she pushed the door open.
She nearly tripped on the pale green sweatshirt trailed across the threshold.
“Oh, no,” she whispered. She could feel the muscles of her face contort as she kicked
the sweatshirt to one side. She remembered, too well, how it had gotten there. After the
wedding, they’d both been laughing, giddy with the gamble they’d taken. Married, after a
courtship of only two days. Sanskar had pressed her against the door. “Now,” he’d crowed,
nuzzling her. His hands had lifted the hem of Swara’s sweatshirt. “Now I’m allowed to take
Swara fell back against the same door. Her purse dropped and she threw her hands
over her eyes. She’d promised herself she wasn’t going to cry over him, not over some
rock-bottom worm like that, but she could feel the hot moisture building anyway, could
feel the spasms starting in her chest.
What had she been thinking to fly out to Boston? Had she expected to get the better
of such a super-class bum?
Well, yes, she had imagined that. And something even worse.
She’d imagined — oh, she hated to admit it, even to herself — but she’d imagined,
deep down in the most naïve part of herself, that he was going to be happy to see her.
Yes! She’d dreamed he was going to have some magical explanation to take away the hurt
of what he’d done. His betrayal was going to vanish into thin air.
In one, secret, wishful part of herself, she’d envisioned him flying home with her on
Stupid. Utterly delusional and stupid.
All Sanskar had wanted in Boston was to see the back of her — forever. And he hadn’t
cared how much more he had to hurt her to achieve that result.
Swara hiccupped painfully. Lord, she’d been brought up better than this, better than to
accept less than complete commitment and respect. Her minister father and his devoted
wife, her mother, had given Swara a glorious example of a truly loving relationship. It
certainly wasn’t their fault Swara was failing completely in the romance department.
She was almost — almost — glad they were no longer alive to see what a mess
she’d made of her own ‘marriage.’
Swara allowed herself one last sob, then gave her head a brisk shake. All right.
Enough. She’d made her mistake in insisting on a ring, and then compounded it by flying
out to Boston. It didn’t accomplish anything now to feel sorry for herself. All she could do
was…move on. Put Sanskar Maheshwari and her bad judgment behind her.
Next time she’d be smarter. Next time she’d find out for sure whether or not the guy
really loved her.
Swara sniffled, rubbed her nose, and bent to snag the green sweatshirt off the floor.
The simple act made her feel better. A crumb cake, Swara decided. She almost smiled as
she mashed the sweatshirt into a ball.
Tomorrow she’d ask the girls for the crumb cake. With her boots pinching, Swara
limped toward her bedroom. A good crumb cake ought to clean Sanskar Maheshwari right out
of her system.
Seated in a rental car parked in a lot behind one of the biggest hotels in Las Vegas,
Sanskar lifted his wrist and checked his watch. According to the private detective’s report,
Swara — yes, that was her name, Swara — would be getting out of her required workout
just about now.
Sanskar lowered his wrist. He’d been surprised to learn the number of hours Swara put in
at her job. It was clear she was in a show that demanded real dancing and not a simple
display of physical attributes. In fact, according the detective’s report it was family
oriented, no nudity. That made Sanskar feel marginally better.
Not completely better, of course. He still couldn’t believe the cold facts of the matter,
all he’d done his two lost days. The whole affair was so pathetically tawdry. But at least he
was facing it now, dealing with the consequences. Part of that involved sitting here,
waiting to speak to the woman who had not, after all, been hired by cousin Troy to
interrupt his vice presidents meeting.
Sanskar looked out the car window and chewed the inside of his cheek. This was duty.
The sooner he got to it, the better.
Suiting action to words, he clicked his car door open. Desert air hit him as he
unfolded from the car. Cool for Vegas in May, but warm for a New Englander. He took a
moment to adjust to the temperature, then shut the car door and straightened his tie. With
a deep breath, he started through the parked cars toward the gym door.
His palms sweated and his neck felt stiff. Everything depended on his doing this right;
his sense of honor, his self-respect — everything.
He slowed when he saw the crowd. About a dozen women, hair bands and sweat
suits, gathered in the parking lot around the back of a car. They were laughing and
excited. Among them Sanskar saw Swara. That’s when his feet stopped. Partially hidden
behind a red Bronco, Sanskar stared his fill.
Swara’s hair was loosely bound in a ponytail high on top of her head and she was
dressed just as sloppily as everybody else, in a sweat jacket with the sleeves pushed up,
but Sanskar felt the wind knocked out of him all the same. There was something about her,
the way she stood, an angle of head — it simply cried out: s*x.
He hadn’t expected that. For some reason, he hadn’t thought the same reaction would
assail him now that had hit him in his office on Monday. Sanskar drew in a deep, slow breath.
He could handle this, get past it. He could still prove that he was not just like his father.
Meanwhile Swara took control of the crowd. “Now, now,” she called, raising her
hands. “Calm yourselves, girls.”
“But you said you were ready,” complained a woman in a purple jogging suit.
“So blow him out,” a redhead in shorts recommended.
Sanskar frowned, peering to see what they were talking about. A sheet cake was laid on
the back of a car. Thanks to the angle of the car’s trunk he could see the orange-frosted
concoction was cut in the shape of a human figure. A single candle was stuck in just the
right place to create an anatomically correct male figure.
The women in the parking lot laughed. A few jumped up and down. “Blow!” came
the cry. That’s when understanding finally hit Sanskar. His face went red.
Swara, her attention on her comrades, was shaking her head, smirking, and clearly
milking the situation for all it was worth.
“Blow! Blow! Blow!”
Swara patted the air with her hands, then drew in a deep breath and blew the candle
There were cheers and a few whistles.
“Now slice him up!” someone shouted.
“Bloodthirsty,” Swara scolded, but she had no trouble accepting a huge kitchen knife
that was handed her way. Indeed, she lifted it high.
Sanskar couldn’t help flinching when her blade hit the cake man.
“And this one’s yours.” One of the women picked up the piece with the candle still
stuck in it.
Swara bit the tip of her finger. “Oh no, I couldn’t.”
“You already did,” somebody called out.
There was ribald laughter and Sanskar felt a pull down in his loins as Swara accepted the
proffered cake. She eyed the half-melted candle. “It’s true,” she sighed. “The only part of the fellow worth remembering.”
Heat suffused Sanskar then; embarrassment, he told himself. He moved, needing to
make his presence known, even as Swara plucked the candle from the cake and tossed it, laughing, over her shoulder.
Reflex. Sanskar lifted his right hand. Before he knew what was happening, his fingers
closed mid-air around that damned candle. Worse, he was completely out from behind the
Bronco. Everything suddenly went quiet.
“What?” Swara asked, looking at her friends. “What is it?”
No one answered. Sanskar felt as conspicuous as the moon in a starless sky. Finally,
Swara turned. Her eyes were wide. Horrified, Sanskar thought. His own face remained
flushed. He didn’t know which was worse; that he’d just watched her complete a ritual to
get rid of him, or that he still held that cursed candle in his hand.
“Miss Bose?” He flushed even more at the mistake. “I mean, Mrs. Maheshwari.”
Stupidly, he held forth the candle.
“If it wouldn’t be too anti-climactic — I came to offer