I am a huge SwaSan fan and have been a Silent reader for quite sometime. I Finally decided to post my FF here. I hope to make new friends here. Do Comment
There are few things I can resist in life. This is probably why I got into so much trouble during my younger years. Control is everything—and that is the one thing I’ve learned from my father. You gain nothing by letting yourself go, by revealing your emotions, by becoming vulnerable.
If you’re unable to resist the things that draw you in, it’s a sure fire way to ask for unwanted chaos. I’ve had enough of that in my personal life growing up. Hell, in my professional life too, though I’ve finally turned that corner these last few years.
But the few things I can’t resist? A challenge. A bet.
“He’s an absolute sucker to get married,” Kabir says, his disgust-filled voice pulling me from my thoughts. Kabir Singhania is my best friend. Lakshya Oberoi is too. I’ve known them both since kindergarten. We’re standing together at our college buddy Sahil Kapoor’s wedding reception, lurking in a dark corner of the crowded ballroom and muttering over the so-called sanctity of marriage.
Marriage represents a noose around my neck that tightens with every miserable day. My parents are a shining example of the worst marriage in the history of marriages. They hate each other. They fight and curse each other. Yet they’re still together.
Makes no damn sense.
“He seems happy,” Lakshya, the more optimistic of us three, starts, and both Kabir and I shoot him a look that shuts him up.
“His wife is attractive, I’ll give her that,” Kabir concedes, sipping from his glass of champagne. “But the moment they come back from the French honeymoon, she’ll turn into the biggest b*t*h on the planet, I guarantee it.”
“You don’t even know her,” Lakshya mutters, shaking his head.
“Don’t have to. They all do it. s*xy and beautiful and sweet when you first meet them, you don’t know what to think. The s*x is amazing and you’re having it constantly. Next thing you know, you’re buying them a ring.” Kabir pauses, takes another swig of his champagne, draining the glass.
We’ve talked about this before. We’ve watched our friends go down one by one like fallen soldiers to marriage, especially this last year.
“You get that ring on their finger, go through this whole marriage ceremony bullshit and then you’re left with nothing but a nagging wife in the aftermath. Always giving you shit because you’re never home and you work too much.” I grimace because holy hell, that sounds like my worst nightmare.
“They sure as hell never complain when they’re spending your money, though.” Kabir gestures with his empty glass.
“I agree,” I say, returning the gesture with my glass before I finish it off.
“You guys are such cynics. Both of you act like you’ve done this sort of thing before.” Lakshya crosses his arms in front of his chest. “When was the last time either of you had a girlfriend.” He doesn’t phrase it as a question because he already knows the answer.
“Never,” I sneer. Serious girlfriends aren’t a consideration. None of them interested me enough to want to keep them around.
With the exception of one woman and I absolutely cannot touch her. She’s too young and too sweet, too good, too everything I’m not. She’s so tempting and so completely off limits, I’d be a damn fool to attempt anything with her.
But I want to. Desperately.
“All this talk about how a woman is nothing but shackles and chains like some sort of lifetime prison sentence. I can’t wait to see you both fall and fall hard.” Lakshya laughed.
Kabir and I both glare. “I have no plans of falling any time soon,” Kabir mutters.
“More like never in this lifetime,” I add.
“Please.” Lakshya snorts. “You’ll both eventually realize you don’t want to do this thing called ‘life’ without a woman by your side. Then you’ll be scrambling at some ungodly age, like forty-five, the eternal bachelors looking for some hot piece to be your bride. None of those young babes in their twenties will look at you unless you flash some cash their way.”
“Now who’s the cynic,” I retort, earning a glare from Lakshya.
“I speak the truth,” he says with a shrug. “And you know it.”
“You bag on us for being single, yet you’re single too,” Kabir points out. “Why haven’t you settled down yet?”
Kabir’s question earns another shrug from Lakshya. “Haven’t found the right woman yet.”
His answer is so simple and sounds so damn logical I want to smack him.
“There is no right woman,” I say, wanting to burst Lakshya’s happily-ever-after bubble. “You’ll eventually settle. Trust me.”
“And you won’t,” Kabir says, though I know he’s not disagreeing with me. “I know I don’t plan on settling. I don’t plan on tying myself down whatsoever.”
“Neither do I,” I agree. “Settling is for losers.”
“Absolutely,” Kabir says grimly.
Lakshya focuses his attention solely on me. “I’ll bet big money you’ll be the first to go down.”
“Go down how? On a woman?” This earns a laugh from Kabir. “Go down in flames? What the hell are you talking about?”
“You’ll be the first to fall in love with a woman and beg her to marry you,” Lakshya says.
My mouth goes dry. It feels like an invisible noose just tightened around my neck, making it hard to breathe. “Yeah, right,” I finally manage to choke out.
“You two are so damn resistant to being a relationship; I figure you’ll both be slapped upside the head and fall hard. And it’s going to happen sooner rather than later,” Lakshya says, his voice full of confidence.
That smug tone irritates the hell out of me.
“There is no way I’ll fall in love anytime soon,” I say.
“Me either,” Kabir agrees.
“If you guys want to believe that, then cool. Live in your world of denial, I don’t care.” Our friend is trying to piss us off. And it’s working.
“You want to make that bet you just mentioned? Because I’m in. I’ll prove it to you. I don’t need a woman or a relationship.” I cross my arms in front of my chest. Lakshya’s done this before. He enjoys getting a rise out of the both of us. Drives me crazy.
So let’s see if he goes for it. Always running that mouth of his. Time to put up or shut up.
Kabir snorts. “Don’t just bet him. Let’s all three get in on this one.”
“How much we talking?” Lakshya scrubs his hand along his jaw. The guy is loaded. We’re all loaded; we come from wealthy families and we lived in the same neighbourhood during high school. When we all turned twenty-one within a few months of each other, we started going to Goa and dropping big money like a regular person plays the quarter slots in the casino. Once we graduated college and got real lives, we had to stop that shit. I still miss it. Sort of.
“Ten Lakhs to the last single man standing,” Kabir throws out, a triumphant gleam in his eye. He acts like he’s already won the prize.
“Ten Lakhs?” Lakshya’s eyes practically bug out of his head. Asshole acts like he’s not good for it despite having to recently bow out of a lucrative pro cricket contract due to a career-ending injury—and he didn’t lose a rupee of that contract either. The guy has buckets full of money. He recently invested some of it in a winery not far from where I live just so he could claim a loss for his taxes.
He’s definitely not hurting financially. Neither is Kabir. He’s one of the top real estate investors in all the Mumbai, right behind his father. They both have the magic touch, finding properties and businesses for a song and turning them around for a tremendous profit.
The hotel industry claims I have the magic touch as well, despite my father’s irritation at that particular assertion. I can’t help that I saw a need and filled it with the loser hotel he gave me. He firmly believed I’d fail.
I proved him wrong. Hell, I’m getting ready to expand. And he hates that.
It’s almost as if my own father would relish seeing me fail.
“What, you scared?” I say this because I know there is no way in hell I will lose this bet. No woman can sink her claws into me so deep I can’t escape.
No way, no how.
Kabir laughs and shakes his head. “Don’t be such a prick, Oberoi. Ten Lakhs is chump change in your bank account.”
“Not really,” Lakshya mutters. “Not that I’m worried. I’ll win.”
Ha. Lakshya making that confident of a statement pushes me to prove him wrong. “You really think so?”
“I know so.” Lakshya smiles. “I’d even bet an extra five lakhs the next woman you talk to, you’ll end up marrying.”
“Sucker bet, bro. Take him up on it,” Kabir chimes in, nudging my shoulder hard. “Give us a break, Lakshya. I can’t think of one woman in this entire room Sanskar would want to talk to, let alone marry.”
I remain quiet. There is one woman I wouldn’t mind talking to. Spend time with. Not in the serious sense or the potential marriage sense, because hell no, that’s not in my future. I’d make some poor woman a terrible husband and I know it. Which is why I leave her alone.
She wants that sort of thing. A husband and kids and a white picket fence around the pretty little house she decorated. I know she does. She’s a dreamer, a romantic, a woman who deserves to be treated like a queen. I’d only end up hurting her and I couldn’t live with myself if I did. Kabir wouldn’t let me live either.
He knows her well, considering I’m referring to his baby sister.
Once upon a time, when she was younger, I didn’t think much about her. But then she blossomed into this hot teenager that had me thinking all the wrong thoughts every time I got near her. Seventeen-year-old Swara made me feel like a pervert. Didn’t help that every time I tried to avoid her, she wanted to talk to me. As if she knew she drove me crazy and was determined to get under my skin with her sweet, thoughtful ways, how she laughed at my jokes and looked at me as if she could see right through me.
And when she grew into this beautiful, s*xy, confident woman, I knew without a doubt I had to avoid her at all costs. I wanted to be with her in the worst damn way. She’s the first woman I ever truly cared for. I don’t want to hurt her, because I would. I hurt all the women in my life. Ask my mother. Ask any female who thought she had a fleeting chance at being with me.
“Maybe you could go babysit Swara for a little while,” Kabir suggests.
I turn to him, incredulous. Can he reach inside my brain and read my thoughts? f**king scary how he just did that.
“What do you mean?” I ask warily.
“You want to win an easy fifty grand? Go be with Swara. Like she’d marry your sorry ass.” Kabir laughs, though I don’t. Why am I a sorry ass? Yeah, I know I’m not worthy of Swara, but damn, his words still hurt.
When I don’t say anything, Kabir continues.
“She broke it off with the guy she’d been seeing a few nights ago. Not that he was worthy of her, but she’s been down in the dumps ever since,” Kabir explains. “You could go hang out with her for the rest of the night, use her to fight off any other female who might approach. Swara’s always liked you, though I don’t know why since you’re such a jackass.” He pauses, his eyes narrowed. “I realize you enjoy chasing everything in a skirt, but I know you won’t take advantage of my sister. Right?”
The pointed look he gives me rings loud and clear. I want to promise him I won’t take advantage of her. But he’s talking about Swara . . . and I always want what I can’t have.
“She doesn’t count anyway,” Lakshya says with a chuckle. “After all, it’s just Swara.”
“Right. Just Swara.” I nod as I look around, hoping to spot her. She’s here. I saw her earlier, though she avoided me. Most of the time, I choose to aggravate the shit out of her rather than let on how I really feel. “You mean she doesn’t count toward that crazy-ass bet you just made me?’
“Yeah, she totally doesn’t count. Besides, Kabir would kill you,” Lakshya says matter-of-factly. “There are approximately twenty-five women spying on us at this very moment, all of them sisters, friends or whatever of the bride. They’re dying for you to even look their way, Sanskar. First one that talks to you, I guarantee you’ll marry.”
“Bullshit,” I mumble. My friend has lost his damn mind.
“Whatever.” Lakshya laughs as does Kabir, but I ignore them.
Glancing across the room, I see her. Swara. Sitting at a table alone, watching couples sway together on the dance floor to some sappy love song. Her long, brown hair is wavy when she usually wears it straight, and I’m tempted to run my hands through it, see if it feels as silky soft as it looks. Her Sari is a rich, dark blue and backless blouse, revealing plenty of smooth, creamy flesh that my fingers literally itch to touch.
The wistful longing on her face is obvious and I’m compelled to go to her. Ask her to dance. Pull her in close, feel her curves mold against me as I breathe in her sweet scent.
Yeah. She’d probably tell me to go to hell before she’d dance with me.
“I don’t want to touch her,” I say, which is a lie because I would f**king love to touch her. “You can trust me.”
More lies. Kabir should kick me in the nuts just for thinking about his sister. Let alone actually doing something to her. With her. Over her, under her, any way I can get her. She’s the only one who could tempt me to break the crazy bet I just made. Who could make me want to go against everything I’ve ever believed in since I was a kid.
But I won’t. I refuse to give in. She’s not for me.
No matter how badly I want her to be.
There is nothing worse than going to a wedding alone, especially when I’d had a boyfriend approximately forty-eight hours ago. Before I realized the guy I was seeing was also still seeing the woman he claimed he’d broke up with well over two years ago.
How did I find out this amazingly bad news? The supposed ex called my cell and chewed me out while I was looking over cabinet samples with a client. Talk about humiliating. Talk about my life turning into a daily soap episode. She made me feel like a cheating b*t*h out to steal her man, the very last thing I am. I am not a man-stealer. I know some women are attracted to men in relationships but not me. Taken men are too much trouble, thank you very much.
I hung up on the still-ranting, supposed ex-girlfriend and promptly called Pawan, letting him know I couldn’t see him any longer. He’d hardly protested—no surprise. What a jerk.
So now I sit here alone. With the single and hopeless crowd, because when I called the bride and told her I wasn’t bringing my date after all, Kiran flipped out. Claimed I would mess up her carefully orchestrated photo-op and oh my God, what not.
I think my saying an emphatic no resulted in me ending up at the desperate and single section as punishment.
Sighing, I prop my elbow on the edge of the table and rest my chin on my fist, watching all the couples dancing, the bride and groom in the center of the floor, grinning up at each other like fools. They look happy. Everyone looks happy.
I’m jealous of all the happiness surrounding me. Weddings remind me I’m alone. For once, I wish I could find someone. I’ve had a string of bad luck with men my entire dating life. I pick wrong, my mom has told me more than once. She describes me as a fixer. I take the broken guys and try to put them back together again. “Humpty Dumpty syndrome” is what she calls it.
Gee, thanks, Mom.
My brother says I’m too young to want to settle down, but I’m nothing like him. He just wants to screw around and stay single forever. Kabir doesn’t know what I want. Do I though? I’m not sure. I thought I did. I thought Pawan had potential.
Turns out he went splat all over the ground. Definitely couldn’t put him back together again.
Maybe I shouldn’t take everything so damn seriously. Maybe I should let loose and do something completely and totally crazy. Like find some random guy and make out with him in a dark corner. I miss having a man cup my face and kiss me slowly. Thoroughly. Unfortunately, Pawan wasn’t that great of a kisser. Too much thrusting tongue, though I firmly believed I could help him correct that annoying habit.
He didn’t give me a chance, which is fine, because really, chemistry is everything. If I don’t feel a spark with a kiss, then the guy is clearly not right for me.
If I’m going to consider a relationship with a guy, that’s what I want. What I need. A spark. Chemistry. A few stolen kisses, wandering hands, whispered words in a quiet corner where someone might catch us. He’d press me up against a wall, cradle my face in his hands, and kiss me like he means it . . .
I frown. I’m sitting alone contemplating a wild wedding reception hookup with a faceless guy. Since when did I become so desperate?
“What’s wrong, chicken?” a familiar voice asks from behind me and I stiffen my shoulders. Great. I’d know that deep, velvety voice anywhere. Sanskar Maheshwari. The absolute last guy I want to deal with tonight.
Talk about a Humpty Dumpty type. Sanskar knows he’s broken and damaged. And he definitely doesn’t want to be put back together again. The twisted part? He likes being that way. He revels in his brokenness.
No thanks. Even I know my limits. Despite how freaking gorgeous he is, because oh my God, Sanskar is beautiful. Dark hair, dark eyes, tall and broad with a body that’s hard and muscular without being over the top; he’s downright swoon-worthy.
And he’s my brother’s best friend. I’ve known Sanskar since I was twelve and he moved in next door with his cold-as-ice parents. I’d developed an immediate crush, because back then he was the most exotic thing I’d ever seen in my never-changing, no-one-ever-moves neighbourhood.
The crush died a swift death when I realized what a player he was. Even at twelve, I could see the ugly truth.
Smart girls don’t mess around with Sanskar.
He trails his finger across my bare shoulder, knocking me from my memories, making me shiver. “You’re looking awfully down during this happy occasion, chicken.”
Glancing over my shoulder, I find him flashing that trademark heart-melting smile at me. I absolutely refuse to let my heart to melt for even a fraction of a second. “I really wish you wouldn’t call me that,” I say irritably, scowling at him. Calling me chicken twice in as many minutes is a sign he’s trying to drive me crazy.
What else is new?
Chuckling, his dark brown eyes flash. It’s not fair how pretty he is. He has that strong jaw and lush mouth. The dimple that makes such a rare appearance that whenever I see it, I immediately want to kiss it. Lick it.
My frown deepens. I should not be thinking about licking Sanskar’s face. What the hell is wrong with me? Too much champagne or what?
More like too much dreaming about being pulled into a dark corner and kissed until you can’t breathe.
“No, ‘Hi, Sanskar, how are you?’” He shakes his head, resting his hand on the back of my chair. His knuckles brush against my bare skin and I try to repress the shiver that overtakes me at his casual touch. “And you’re usually so polite.”
“Sanskar, cut the crap.” I meet his gaze, watch with satisfaction as the smile falls from his face. Have I ever talked to him like this? Probably not, but I can’t deal. Not tonight. “I’m not in the mood. I’ve had a bad week.”
“Yeah, I heard,” he says quietly, his eyes full of sympathy. “Sorry about the guy.”
I’m going to kill my brother for blabbing. Now I feel extra pitiful. Sanskar probably came over because he felt sorry for me. I saw him talking with Kabir and Lakshya Oberoi a few minutes ago, though they didn’t notice me. Were they laughing at my yet again failed attempt at finding a decent guy? Probably. Those three have mocked me for years. It’s become habit now. “It’s no big deal. He was a total jerk.”
“I’d say, for letting you go so easily.”
Did he really just say that? What did he mean? “Is there something you wanted to talk about?” I’m eager to get rid of him. For whatever reason, with only a few words he’s confusing me tonight and I don’t like it. I’m confused enough, what with my secret wishes for random hookups with hot guys.
Hot like Sanskar . . .
“Yeah, there is.” The smile returns, gentler now, not full of the usual bravado. “Want to dance?”
“With you?” I’m incredulous. And I want to laugh when I see he’s obviously offended by my question.
“Yeah, with me. Come on.” He holds out his hand. “Be my shield before some crazy woman tries to drag me out onto the dance floor. They’re circling, chicken. They’re about to jump me if I don’t watch it.”
He’s right. I can see a few women starting to approach us. Suddenly overcome with the need to let them know that he’s not available, I let him take my hand, his long fingers clasping around mine as he pulls me to my feet. He blatantly checks me out, his gaze running down the length of my body, lingering on my chest, and I simultaneously want to punch him and ask if he likes what he sees.
Yeah, definitely confusing.
A woman appears before us, her smile so wide I wonder if it hurts her face. “Hey, you’re Sanskar Maheshwari, right? From Maheshwari Hotels? The Hush Resort and Spa?” she asks, her voice falsely bright.
“I am.” He pulls me closer, releasing my hand so he can wrap his arm around my shoulders in a proprietary way, like he’s claiming me. His thumb rubs circles against my skin, making my breaths come a little faster, and I drop my gaze to the floor, trying to gather my composure. “Have we met before?”
“Once. Long ago, but I’m sure you don’t remember me.” I glance up and watch as her smile grows. How is that even possible? “I’ve always wanted to go there. To Hush.”
Hush Resort and Spa. The hotel Sanskar’s father gave him as some sort of punishment after he barely graduated college. He turned it into one of the most exclusive and successful couples-only resorts in all the country, if not the world. He became white-hot in an instant, in demand. Gorgeous and s*xy, intelligent and ruthless, women wanted to do him, men wanted to be him. And the arrogant jackass knew it.
“I suggest you make a reservation.” His voice is full of irritation. He’s trying to steer us around her but she’s not budging.
“I can’t. I’m not part of a couple.” She literally bats her eyelashes. “Maybe you could help with that?”
“I’m sure we could find one of your friends to hook her up with, don’t you think, baby?” I smile up at Sanskar, sending him a meaningful look so he gets what I’m trying to do. He blinks down at me, no doubt startled by being called baby, which is fun. He’s sort of hot when he’s confused, and it’s hard to frazzle Sanskar. So I decide to do it some more.
Leaning up, I nuzzle his neck, inhaling his unique spicy scent. God, he smells amazing. Why have I never noticed this before? Not that we’re ever standing this close together, but I’m tempted to rub against him like a cat.
I wonder if she’s bought we’re a couple yet. If I have to keep this up I might do something crazy. Like . . . bite him. “I’m sure that could be arranged,” he says, his voice rough as his arm tightens around my shoulders.
I slip my arm around his back. He’s as solid as a rock. Makes me wonder what he looks like beneath all the finery. I haven’t seen him shirtless since I was in high school, and he’s filled out since then considerably. “If you’ll excuse us,” I tell Miss Persistent with a sickeningly sweet smile before I turn it on Sanskar. “Let’s go dance, baby.”
He leads me out onto the dance floor wordlessly, pulling me into his arms just as another slow song starts. His hand rests on the small of my back as we begin to move to the music and my entire body tingles at his nearness. Which is odd because 1. I have no desire to be with Sanskar like that and 2. I’ve been immune to his charm for years.
“You’re good, with the ‘baby’ bit and rubbing your nose against my neck,” he murmurs close to my ear. His hot breath makes me shiver and I wonder if he felt it. He had to.
And I don’t really care. I’m hyperaware of him, of his size and his warmth and the sheer strength of him. His big hand shifts lower on my back, his fingertips grazing my backside, and I inhale sharply. I bet he knows just how to use those hands, too.
Oh my God, this is Sanskar you’re drooling over. Stop it!
“Think she bought our act?” I ask breathlessly.
“Not sure.” He hesitates for the slightest moment, causing me to look up at him. I’m struck dumb by his smouldering gaze, the way he’s staring at me like he wants to gobble me up. I wonder if I’m returning the same look, because I have the sudden urge to kiss him. For hours, if possible. “But I know I did.”