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Don’t pass out. Do not pass out.
Sanskar inhaled and exhaled slowly, trying not to look at the bright red blood
marring the white blanket of snow at his feet. He hated the sight of blood,
especially his own. His stomach churned, his pulse beat like a heavy metal drum
solo in his ears, and his vision grew spotty.
How the hell had he lost control of the chainsaw? This wasn’t his first time
using the thing. He’d been cutting his own wood since moving out here with no
accidents whatsoever.
You weren’t focused, dumbass.

He tightened his gloved grip on his arm and squeezed his eyes shut as warm
blood soaked through to his cold fingers. He’d been thinking of Swara while he
sawed into the log. Remembering the soft curves of her naked body, the smell of
his soap on her skin, the silkiness of her hair as it wound around his fingers. He’d
been so distracted—and aroused—he hadn’t held the chainsaw at the right angle,
hadn’t followed the standard procedures in Simple Lumberjacking 101. The blade
wedged in the trunk and locked up on him. Before he realized what was
happening, the saw kicked back and freed itself. Not expecting the sudden weight
of the freed machine, Sanskar had lost his footing in the deep, slippery snow. He
hadn’t fallen over, but with his fingers still on the trigger, so to speak, the saw
blade got him right across the inside of his arm just below the elbow.

He wouldn’t have believed it if he’d watched a video, but there was his blood,
staining his torn jacket and shirt, seeping into his glove, and making his stomach
flip-flop. He bent over at the waist, willing himself not to puke, not to faint.
Be a man, dammit.

“Oh, my God, Sanskar. What happened?” His boots on Swara’s feet came into
view as he stayed hunched over, still holding his arm. Her hand rested on his
shoulder, and he had a second to think he should respond to her before everything
faded to black…
When he opened his eyes, he lay sprawled on the couch in his living room, a
fire roaring in the fireplace. Swara hovered over him. Night had fallen, and even
in the dim glow of the fire, her face was pale. Beautiful, but pale. Sanskar tried to sit
up, but instantly his arm burned with a searing pain. He had trouble swallowing as
he remembered that saw blade grazing his flesh.

“Are you going to vomit?” Swara pressed a cold cloth to his forehead, and he
settled back down against the couch cushions.
“Maybe.” He closed his eyes to keep the ceiling from spinning above him.
“Please don’t. Blood doesn’t bother me, but vomit…no way, buddy. Not
going to deal with that. If you puke, you’re on your own.”
“So much for a bedside manner.” He pulled the cloth off his face.
“Hey, you’re lucky I hauled you back in here, cleaned that gash, stitched it,
and bandaged it. I charge extra for polite bedside banter.” Having said that, she
fussed with a quilt she’d thrown over his lower body.
Sanskar looked at his arm, which was neatly wrapped with white gauze. He was
wearing a fresh flannel shirt with the arm rolled up above the injury. It must have
been quite a job getting him changed.
“How did you know what to do?” He couldn’t picture the grown up,
sophisticated Swara successfully tending the wounded.
“I have many layers, Sanskar. Many layers. Don’t judge a book by its flashy
cover.” She winked at him, and just for a second, he saw the girl he’d known all
those years ago. That…spark was still there. That indescribable something that
had drawn him into his parents’ kitchen every time she came to help her mother
work. And she was right about not judging. Life was a journey, and you never
knew where people had been or what they were hiding.

“Well, thanks for coming to my rescue.” He almost spilled his guts right then
and there about who he was, but she spoke first.
“Are you going to tell me what happened, or do I need to call in a forensic
team to inspect the scene out there?” She gestured to the windows facing the back
of the house.
He explained his stupidity, leaving out the part about thinking of her. She
didn’t need to know she’d compromised his ability to function. Especially not
after her comments earlier today about no entanglements. It was his problem he
had let her crawl inside him. His problem that she already meant more to him than
was safe. His problem that he’d never completely forgotten her all those years ago.
She didn’t want commitments or complications, and truthfully, he didn’t need
them either.
“Luckily, due to my expert emergency skills, you’ll live.”

When she smiled, Sanskar began rethinking commitments and complications.
She shifted on the sliver of couch where she sat beside him. “You know, you
remind me of someone I once knew.”
Every muscle in his body froze. And not because he was cold. The fire and
Swara’s close proximity kept him heated. Overheated was more accurate.
“When I was a little girl, I knew this boy named Sanskar who was afraid of
She looked deeply into Sanskar’s eyes, and he could barely breathe. “I’m not
afraid of blood,” he managed to say, though his voice sounded horse.

“Sanskar. Please. Save it. I saw you. You dropped like a rock back there. I’ve
only seen one other male do that. Sanskar.” She grinned when she said the name.
His name.
“He’d been squirting me with the hose attached to the sink in his parents’
kitchen. Being a real pain in the a*s. I defended myself with a giant, silver serving
tray. Water spilled onto the floor, and clumsy Sanskar slipped, knocking his head
on the corner of the granite countertop. When he touched his head, and his fingers
came away covered in blood, he said my name and boom. Right down to the wet
floor like a sack full of watermelons.”

She laughed. “Sorry, I don’t mean to make fun, but when my mom brought
him back around, the first thing he’d said was, ‘I don’t want to die, Sumi . I don’t
want to die.’”
Sanskar remembered the incident. He’d needed stitches then, too, and had to be
watched for signs of concussion. He remembered Sumi ’s tender touch, one his
own mother never gave him. In fact, his mother had been more upset that he’d
bled all over his expensive clothes and her imported tile floor.

After he’d come home from the emergency room, his father sent him up to bed
to rest. Sanskar knew his tears had made his father uncomfortable, as did any display
of real emotion. With a pounding headache, he’d showered, slipped into shorts and
a T-shirt, and eased onto his bed.
A soft knock had sounded on his bedroom door. The door opened slowly, and
Swara appeared.
“Are you okay, Sanskar?” she’d asked, her eyes soft and full of concern.
She stood at the threshold. He knew she helped Sumi clean the house and had
been in his room before, but somehow, seeing her there, just a mere step away,
moved him in a way he’d never been moved.

He’d lain there, tongue-tied. When her mother called, she gave a quick smile
just for him, and scurried away.
Blinking up at her now, Sanskar took a breath and opened his mouth to tell her
“You know,” Swara said. “I really want to slap Sanskar.”
His mouth snapped shut. “Slap him? Why?”
“Once he went to prep school, his father sold the penthouse apartment and
fired my mother. Losing that job crushed her. It was the only thing keeping her
going. Work was her life, and it was a while before she found another job. When
she died a few years later, he didn’t even come to pay his respects, and I sent the
Maheshwari’s a note. My mother cared for Sanskar a lot more than his own mother
did. He knew it too.”

Hurt battled anger in her eyes. “Some guys are just rich jerks, I guess….
“I guess they are,” Sanskar muttered. Like his father. The old man hadn’t
bothered to tell him when Sumi died. Sanskar had been away at college by then, but
he would have come to the funeral. He would have written. He would have…
something. “I’m sorry about your mother.” It was too little, too late, but all he
could offer now. He’d save his confession for another time—or maybe never.
Swara tilted her head and gave him an appraising look. “Thanks. How are you
He flexed his arm gingerly. “Sore.”

“I bet. I’ll get you some aspirin in a minute. How’s your stomach? Have you
recovered enough to eat? We missed lunch, you know.”
Was that a subtle reminder of their fight that morning? He glanced up and met
the glittering challenge in her hazel eyes. Memories of the argument brought back
memories of the hours of passionate lovemaking that preceded it. She was still
angry, but she’d done everything she could to take care of him. Maybe he was
getting under her skin the way she was getting under his.
“I could eat.” He leaned forward and started to rise, but she pushed him back
with a firm hand on his shoulder.

“Oh, no, you don’t. You stay right where you are. I have no intention of
wrestling with your unconscious body again.”
A grin tilted his lips at the corners. “I’m much more fun when I’m conscious.”
He reached for her but winced when pain shot through his injured arm.
A look of concern crossed her face. “I told you not to move.” She rose from
the couch. “I might not be as good a cook as my mother was, but I scramble a
mean egg.”
“I’ll take three.”
She arched a brow. “You’ll take what I give you and like it.”
He snapped a mock salute. “Yes, ma’am.”
Swara crossed the room to the front window and peered out. “The snow’s
coming down hard again.”
Sanskar twisted on the couch to see. “This is supposed to be the last of it. The
forecast says it should stop by morning.”
“How long do you think it will take them to get the power back on and clear
the roads?”

Her voice held a wistful note. Or was it his imagination? Better keep things
light. That seemed to be the way she wanted it. “Why? Can’t wait to get away
from me?”
She turned and smiled. “Well, you are pretty demanding.”
“Come over here and I’ll show you demanding,” he growled.
This time she laughed. “That’s mighty big talk for a one-armed man.”
“Hey, I’m better with one arm than most men are with two.”
Her smile faded. “I’ll fix supper.”

Sanskar lay on the couch and listened to Swara bustling around in the kitchen.
A couple of times she called out a question about where to find something, but
mostly she kept quiet. He wondered what she was thinking.
After locating the matches, Swara lit the camp stove. It was a far cry from her
compact, state-of-the-art kitchen in New York, but she managed to whip up a
fluffy batch of scrambled eggs that would make Rachel Ray jealous. She even
threw in some grated parmesan cheese she found in the fridge. She hoped the eggs
would make up for the sorry state of the toast. She’d had to dangle the bread over
the open flame of the stove, and the result wasn’t pretty.
“Here you go.” She handed Sanskar a plate and fork and sat in a chair across
from him with her food.

“Thanks.” He stabbed his fork into the mound of eggs like a healthy man who
hadn’t eaten in way too long. She guessed he was feeling better.
Glancing at the gauze bandage on his arm, Swara swallowed hard. She’d
almost fainted, too, when she saw the blood-spattered snow and the glazed look in
his eyes. Fortunately, the executive in her had taken over. She’d sized up the
situation and done what needed to be done. Now that the crisis had passed, she
was amazed by her own resourcefulness. The wound wasn’t deep, but it was ugly.
Chain saws weren’t exactly surgical instruments.

Sanskar had propped his plate on his lap so he didn’t have to use his injured
arm. It must hurt like the devil. She wished she had something stronger to give
him than aspirin, but she’d scoured his medicine cabinet with no luck.
While she watched him eat, she was struck by a niggling feeling of familiarity
deep in her brain. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but she felt like she knew him.
Really knew him. She shook her head at the fanciful thought and turned her
attention to her eggs. Maybe it was the memories dredged up by sharing the story
of Sanskar. Maybe it was her mind trying to justify the fact that she’d fallen, or in
this case leapt, into bed with a near-stranger. Maybe it was all those hours spent
together in bed, mouth to mouth, skin to skin. That was certainly one way to get to
know a man. Whatever the connection, it eluded her.

After they finished eating, she collected the dishes and washed them. When
she returned to the living room, she found Sanskar fast asleep on the couch with
Major at his feet. She should wake him; he would probably sleep better in his own
bed. But she hesitated. He looked so peaceful. She studied the hard, masculine
angles of his cheekbones and jaw. What was it about him?
She’d decided to leave him where he slept and was adjusting the quilt when a
hand shot out and grasped her wrist. She sucked her breath in hard and looked
down into a pair of sleepy blue eyes.
“Come with me.”

Her breath released in a huff as she laid a hand against his forehead. It felt
warm, maybe a little too warm. “You’re not going anywhere except to bed.”
“Exactly.” He threw off the quilt and struggled to his feet.
Swara grabbed his good elbow. “Hang on. I’ll help you. I imagine the shock
from this afternoon has kicked in.”
She steered him to the bedroom and helped him lie down.

“Stay with me,” he said, holding her wrist to prevent her escape.
“That isn’t such a good idea.” Their lovemaking had been amazing. There was
no denying it. But the storm would end soon, and their time together with it. She
needed to start putting distance between them.
“Stay with me,” he repeated softly.
“You’re hurt.”
“It’s not so bad. I want you with me while I sleep.”

“You’re delirious.”
“Maybe.” He tugged on her arm lightly. “Stay. Please.”
Good sense warred with desire. A smart woman would tuck him in and say
goodnight, but she wasn’t feeling exceptionally bright at the moment.
“Okay. But just until you fall asleep.”

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