Hi guys sorry for the late update..
It had been a hectic day for Ragini, one board meeting after another. She’d been
juggling budgets that were too small, and smoothing feathers that were constantly getting
ruffled. By nine p.m. she was ready for a long soak in the tub and the rest of the evening
spent curled in her bedroom armchair with a good book.
Her mother was out at her bridge night, which was a mixed blessing because when the
doorbell rang it was up to Ragini to deal with it. Giving a longing look toward her
armchair — she hadn’t had time to open her book — she started down the stairs.
She soon saw she’d interrupted her pleasure for nothing. Murchison, the butler, was
still up. He was opening the front door just as Ragini, in a pink sweat suit, was descending
the staircase. But she halted, dumbstruck, when she saw the face beyond Murchison’s
Laksh? Laksh, grinning from ear to ear? Laksh, who, with his sparkling eyes and flashing
teeth couldn’t be looking more wildly different than the mocking, distant man she’d last
seen a week ago at the Club? Indeed, he was mercurial, unpredictable, and erratic.
“Laksh,” she said, in as dampening a tone as possible.
Laksh ignored her tone. His reply was as warm and engaging as hers had been distant.
“Ragini,” he said. “You look…great. Say, can we talk?”
Good God. Ragini didn’t want to talk to Laksh. But Murchison had apparently decided
Ragini’s greeting of the man constituted acceptance of his presence in the house. “Miss
Thurgood,” he mumbled, and marched off. Ragini was left to contend with Laksh who, still
grinning, had waltzed into the front foyer. He stood there, his hands dug into his trouser
pockets, gazing at Ragini with all the bonhomie in the world.
“So?” he asked. “Can we?”
Ragini tried, and failed, to come up with a plausible reason to refuse his request. With
an expression she hoped was suitably off-putting, she gestured toward the living room.
“Please,” she said. “Be my guest.”
Laksh grinned and gestured. “After you.”
Ragini stifled a sigh as she descended the rest of the stairs and led the way into the
spacious living room. Halfway into the room she turned and found Laksh ogling a Tiffany
“Wow,” he said. “Your mother’s house is way classier than my uncle’s.”
Ragini’s teeth clamped together. She didn’t think she had to accept small talk from
him, not when it was taking every ounce of strength she owned to maintain a cool and
composed exterior. “Laksh,” she said. “Your purpose?”
“Oh.” He glanced over, looking sheepish. “Yeah. Well, first I wanted to apologize for
the way I brushed you off the other night at the Club. It wasn’t gracious. It wasn’t polite.
And — ” His grin quirked. “And you’re very welcome for the checks I managed to bring
in. In fact — ” His smile widened as he pulled a piece of paper out of his trouser pocket.
“In fact, I have another one right here.”
Ragini could only stand there, flabbergasted, as he stepped toward her and held out
the check. He’d just apologized. He’d just admitted he’d brought in the other checks. And
his eyes as they met hers were…sincere.
Stunned, Ragini took the check from Laksh’s outstretched hand. Her eyes took a
second to focus, but eventually took in that it was a check for sixty thousand dollars,
signed by Sanskar Singleton.
“It was only supposed to be twenty,” Laksh admitted, and rocked onto the balls of his
feet. “But when he found out what it was for, he gave me this long, deep look and then
tripled the amount.”
Gape-jawed, Ragini gazed from the check to Laksh. “You did this?” she asked, her
Laksh rocked back onto his heels. “Not only did I do it, but I whipped Sanskar in the
process. He went down like a sack of potatoes. Ah!” Laksh chuckled and shook his head.
“There I was telling him it wasn’t going to make him feel any better to knock my block off,
and I ended up knocking his off. And it did make me feel better!” Laksh laughed out loud
then, and with definite relish.
“You fought Sanskar?” Ragini was agog.
Laksh tsked. “He begged me to.” His head tilted in the direction of the check that was
held frozen between Ragini’s fingers. “He even paid me for it.”
“But — I don’t understand.”
Laksh sighed. “Suffice it to say, Sanskar needed to get whipped, and…maybe I needed to
be the one to do the whipping. And now here I am, starting to believe I may really be
good at this, getting people to part with their money for a cause. And — and — it feels
good.” Laksh took his hands out of his trouser pockets. “It feels really good to do
something for somebody else, to make a difference. You were — Aw, hell, Ragini.”
In two long strides, Laksh was in front of her. Sanskar’s check wafted to the floor as Laksh
took hold of her arms, drew her against him, and pressed his mouth to hers.
Ragini was too surprised to do anything but accept Laksh’s kiss. It was — He was —
She was too overwhelmed to know.
Then Laksh lifted his mouth and gave her a chance to think. Or try to. Her eyes
searched his now-somber face. “I — I thought you didn’t want to take credit.”
“I didn’t. That is, I was afraid to. Afraid of…well, of what more you might expect of
“You know.” He waved a hand. “Like you’d think people could start to depend on
me.” His voice deepened. “Like maybe you would start to depend on me.”
“I know, I know.” He rolled his eyes. “You’d never be so stupid as to depend on me,
and I think maybe that was the sticking point. While I didn’t want you to depend on me, I
kind of did want you to depend on me.” He gave her an extremely un-Laksh, very serious
look. “I do want you to be able to depend on me, to rely on me…to trust me. I want to be
that kind of man for you.”
Ragini felt everything inside of her go still. Had all of that come out of Laksh’s mouth?
Laksh’s? But as she looked into his eyes she knew it had. She knew she’d always
understood he had this in him. It had been part of his appeal, the most dangerous part of
That he had the capacity to become something exquisitely true and fine.
Slowly, Laksh set her apart from him. His expression had gone terribly serious.
Clearly, he wanted her to take this in, and figure it out. In a way…he was believing in her.
Ragini felt a deep pull inside. Oh, how she wanted to believe in him. She wanted to
engage with him, to be together with him, both physically and emotionally. But — but —
“I’m scared,” she whispered out loud.
The corners of his mouth quirked. “I don’t blame you. I’m kind of…” His gaze slid to
the side as he appeared to debate what word would describe himself.
“Important,” Ragini heard herself tell him.
His gaze flew back to hers.
Ragini drew in a sharp breath. Yes, Laksh was important. He was the first, and only,
man to have gotten through her physical inhibitions. He was the first, and only, man to
make her challenge herself and her preconceived notions. “You’re the only man I’ve ever
wanted,” she admitted.
His eyes were intent, still serious, but his lips slowly curved.
Ragini put a hand to her forehead. She’d never expected any of this, from becoming
susceptible to Laksh in the first place to having him standing here in her living room, telling
her he wanted to be the right kind of man for her.
“So-o-o…?” Laksh tilted his head. His lips straightened again. “You’re still scared.”
“Well, yes.” Of course she was scared. Laksh was mercurial and erratic. Hadn’t she
recently decided that?
Ragini peered at him from beneath her hand. No, he wasn’t really mercurial or erratic,
he’d just been scared, too. And he’d gotten past it. He’d made over a hundred thousand
dollars for the Boston Family Aid shelter. And he was standing here right now in her living
room telling her wanted to be a real, trustworthy man for her.
Ragini sucked in her lips. Her heart beat rapidly. Yes, she was scared — but maybe it
was time for her to meet a new challenge, to do what Laksh was doing, and become more
than she’d previously been. “But,” she said slowly, “maybe it’s time to get past the fear.”
Laksh started to smile. So did she. A wonderful wave of emotion rose inside of her.
Oh, she wasn’t done feeling scared, but she thought she was done letting her fear stop her,
letting it rule or limit her life. Ragini took her hand from her forehead and stretched it
across the space between them. She let her palm cup the side of Laksh’s face. Her fingers
shook, excited by the very male feel of the roughness there, at the feel of him.
“Oh, Laksh,” she murmured. “But do you think I could be the right kind of woman for
His eyes blazed. “I think you could.”
Ragini’s hand pressed against the side of his face. She liked his I think. He wasn’t
handing out blanket assurances. “Laksh,” she whispered, and stepped forward to kiss him.
His lips trembled under hers at first, and then he kissed back. The kiss quickly grew
deeper, hotter, more intimate. Laksh’s hand moved to cover her left br*ast. It occurred to
Ragini, fleetingly and with amusement, that she was probably about to lose her over-ripe virginity.
“Please tell me your mother went to bridge, just like your chauffeur told my chauffeur
she always does on Monday nights,” Laksh muttered in Ragini’s ear.
Ragini giggled. “You are wicked.”
“Not wicked, honey, just desperate. So, is she gone?”
For a split-second Ragini hesitated, not out of fear or lack of interest, but to savor the
moment, the one where she seized life with both hands. She speared her fingers into Laksh’s silky hair and looked up at him with smiling eyes. “She’s gone.”
“Thank God,” Laksh muttered.
An hour later, in her bed with the lacy canopy, Ragini lost her virginity with a happy
gasp. Laksh, who didn’t appear to be the least bit surprised — or fazed — covered her lips
very tenderly with his own. “I love you,” he said.
“That’s good,” Ragini replied, draping her arms around his neck. “Because I love you,
too.” She truly did. She loved everything about him. Though at that moment, admittedly,
what held her attention was the feel of him, heavy and real, deep inside of her. Wriggling,
she kissed him back. Laksh hissed, and no more was said after that, in words, for a long,
Once he’d decided, Sanskar felt urgent. He didn’t wait for morning but dressed and went
to the airport right then, though he couldn’t find an actual flight for several hours. During
that time a nice bruise began to form on the left side of his jaw. Sanskar didn’t care.
wanted to get to Vegas. He had to check on Swara. Was she all right?
Once in the air, Sanskar looked out the tiny window of the plane. He felt like he’d been
asleep for two weeks. He hadn’t once asked himself exactly why Swara had left. He’d just
assumed — He wasn’t sure what he’d assumed. Whatever it was, it had been illogical,
Sure, he’d expected Swara’s feelings for him to change, but not in the span of a single
day. At the mountain resort, Swara had agreed to stay in the marriage. Two days later she’d
walked out the door. Now Sanskar had to consider what he’d done during those two days to
make that happen.
He sucked in his lips as he remembered. He’d told her he didn’t believe the marriage
was going to last. He’d basically told Swara the marriage was over. She’d simply taken him
at his word.
Sanskar frowned as he watched dawn stealing over western Massachusetts. No, it hadn’t
been so simple. She’d…argued. What had she said?
He shook his head and frowned harder, but he couldn’t remember. At any rate, he
hadn’t listened. And so she’d left.
Now the issue was to decide if he meant what he’d told Swara. Did he consider the
marriage over? Did he want it to be over?
Sanskar felt a shudder run through him. No, he didn’t want it to be over. Being utterly,
painfully honest with himself, he wanted his marriage to Swara to last his entire lifetime. He
wanted to stay with her always, to grow old together, even to have kids.
It was only that he couldn’t believe it could happen. He was inadequate in so many
ways; behind Swara emotionally, unexciting, stodgy… Even if they hadn’t had this big blowup,
surely she’d have come to see all his deficiencies, eventually. One day her love would
dry up. She’d chafe and want to leave. Sanskar scowled and rubbed the back of his neck.
Perhaps there was no point to this little trip, after all.
Do what you want instead of what you should.
Sanskar jerked up his head. Where had that come from?
You’re just full of excuses, aren’t you? And none of them are going to get you what
Sanskar lowered his hand from his neck. Apparently the words were coming from inside
his own head.
His heart began to beat hard. Do what you want instead of what you should. Without
having to get knocked unconscious, he was considering the idea.
What do you have to lose?
Sanskar drummed his fingers on the armrest. He knew what he had to lose. Safety,
security, the certainty of what his life was going to hold, empty though it might be.
Playing video games until two in the morning.
In short, nothing…and everything. Everything he had ever known.
What do you want, Sanskar?
Sanskar closed his eyes. What did he want? What the hell did he really, deep down
He didn’t open his eyes again until the plane began its descent into Las Vegas’
McCarran Airport. By then, he knew.