SHIVIKA – TEMPTING MR OBEROI
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Swara gives Shivaay a gift
Annika forced a smile as she greeted the addition to their party.
Annika : Mr Khanna, How nice of you to ask us to accompany you today.
Daksh Khanna gave her another of those weird beaming smiles, then turned to Gauri and Om who nodded politely and greeted the man.
Daksh : Ofcourse, Miss Mishra! I don’t suppose you’ve been to a special showing of art before?
Annika bit her lip, wondering how to answer. However, Gauri who had overheard that last remark, chuckled.
Gauri : Annika is very into art, Mr Khanna. She spends days in art galleries and is invited to every showing here. Our father was just like her and Akshat has made sure that the invitations continue.
Daksh : So, you actually come here to view the art?
Annika looked at him confused.
Annika : Ofcourse. Doesn’t everyone?
Daksh : You will notice many of the Elite today. People come only to get noticed at such special gatherings.
Annika blinked so that she could stop rolling her eyes. This man was just like everyone in society. He clearly was a prancing peacock. Nevertheless, she smiled.
Gauri : Excuse me, Mr Khanna. I have to talk to Annika for a minute.
Before Mr Khanna could protest, Gauri dragged Annika towards a portrait of the famous scene in Mahabharat – Draupadi’s vastraharan.
Annika : What’s wrong with you? Why did you drag me like that? It was really rude.
Gauri : Don’t tell me you want to spend time with that man.
Annika : Ofcourse not. But I also don’t want to be rude to someone who invited us to go with him.
Gauri (sighing) : Fine! But we have to wait for Swara first.
Annika stared at Gauri startled.
Annika : Swara Bose?
Gauri : Do you know any other Swara? Apparently her brother said that he would come with her today.
Annika : Which brother?
Gauri : Shivaay Singh Oberoi.
Annika opened her mouth to speak, uncertain of what to say, only sure that she would have to leave before she ran into Shivaay. She couldn’t see him. Couldn’t be in the same room with him. It didn’t matter that half of Kolkata would be there as well. Annika began to feel panicked.
Daksh : Here are the beautiful ladies. We’ve been searching for you, Misses Mishra.
Om smiled a bit sourly obviously not pleased Gauri gave Daksh a fake smile but Annika grinned. This was her chance to escape Shivaay.
Daksh : Miss Mishra! Would you like to see the early Greek paintings upstairs?
Annika smiled and nodded.
Annika : Ofcourse, Mr Khanna! Why don’t we go there while Gauri and Om come at their own pace?
Daksh gave another of his weird smiles and Annika sighed inwardly. This man would drive her nuts but anything would be better than to look at Shivaay Singh Oberoi today.
They walked upstairs in silence and Annika had almost forgotten about the man next to her when he suddenly placed his palm on hers. She looked up startled.
Daksh : I’m glad we have a chance to be alone.
Annika raised her eyebrows confused. What was this man’s problem?
Annika : Excuse me?
Daksh : We finally have a chance to be alone together. You must be feeling so happy. You feel so lucky, right?
He ran a single finger discreetly down the length of her forearm, and his smile broadened as he leaned in presumably to steal a kiss. A kiss that Annika had no intention of giving him. She took a step back.
Annika : Mr Khanna! Look at the painting of Medusa! Isn’t it horrifc but lovely?
She hoped the man got the hint but even before he could respond, his phone rang.
Daksh : Excuse me, Miss Mishra but I have to take this. It’s from my office.
Annika smiled in relief and nodded. He walked to a nearby balcony which was mostly free and Annika stepped into the next room to look at more of the Greek paintings.
She didn’t know what it was about paintings that made her feel at home. While books helped her escape her monotonous life, paintings made her feel at home. The frozen moment captured for everyone to see, it was special.
She looked at a picture of Helen of Troy and Paris, both gazing at each other with such adoration and Annika smiled. The next picture was of the Olympian Council of the Gods.
Annika (whispering) : Zeus, Posiedon, Hades, Hera, Ares, Apollo, Athena, Artemis, Aphrodite, Hermes, Hephaestus, Dionysus, Demeter…… So magnificent!
Voice : You look right at home.
The dry words startled her, so close to her ear, and she stiffened in immediate recognition.
Willing herself to remain calm, she turned to face the speaker.
Annika : Mr Oberoi!
She kept quiet, wondering why he was here. She was tired of fighting him, tired of Daksh Khanna, though she had barely spent more than ten minutes with the man. Most of all, She was tired of both of them ruinging her day.
Shivaay : Miss Mishra! I had hoped that you would be here.
The words, and the implication that he’d sought her out, would have elated her months ago. Today, however, she wanted nothing more than to turn on her heel and run from him. Meeting his blue eyes served only to remind her of the embarrassment and pain that he had delivered her at their last meeting.
Her heart constricted at the thought of having another conversation with him, knowing that she was little more than a pawn in some game she did not understand.
She could not summon graciousness.
Annika : I don’t think I believe you, but tell me, Why were you looking for me?
Shivaay : I wanted to talk to you.
Annika : Well, I find that I don’t want to talk to you.
She walked to the door and tried to move out but at that moment, a school party filled with what seemed thousand students rushed in, nearly knocking Annika over like a skittle.
Shivaay placed a hand on her back steadying her and she placed a hand on his shoulder as she attempted to right herself. Shivaay moved them out of the way to a corner as the room became crowded with the students.
Annika : You did this, Didn’t you?
Shivaay looked back at her amused.
Shivaay : What do you think I did? Paid a ridiculous amount of money to the school and make sure the students came into the room as you left? Not to mention the fact that I wasn’t sure if you would be here or the fact that we would meet in this room? I may have power and prestige but I don’t have any prediction skills, Goddess.
Annika blushed at the sweet nickname. So intimate, it seemed.
Annika : Don’t call me that.
He placed his hand on her elbow and they walked out of the room as Shivaay led them into another side room and then another, and another.
Annika : Where are we going?
Shivaay finally stopped at a small indoor corridor of sorts which was empty. Annika could hear voices on the other side of the closed door and guessed that the Greek paintings were on that side.
Annika : What are we doing here? I have to go back. Gauri, Om, Even Daksh Khanna will be looking for me.
Shivaay : Do you like him?
She ignored him, instead moving to pass him and escape around the edge of the screen into the room beyond. He captured her hand as she pushed past, and the touch stopped her. He did not hold her firmly enough that she couldn’t extricate herself from his grasp, but the heat of his hand against her own made her look back at him, forced her to meet his eyes.
In that moment, the only thing he wanted was for her to stay with him. For her to forgive him. He’d arrived with Swara, ready to find Annika and apologize for his behavior—ready to do whatever it took to repair the obvious hurt that he had caused.
And he’d located her almost immediately, beaming up at the idiot Khanna, clearly having a lovely time, as they were walking upstairs. The sight had infuriated him—Annika so lovely and happy, Daksh so foppish and simple.
She’d never smiled so openly at Shivaay. And if she were to do so, he certainly wouldn’t respond as Daksh had, the fool, walking away from her. No. If she ever looked at him in such a way, he’d sweep her into his arms and kiss her senseless. Hang the location.
Hell. He wanted to kiss her senseless right then, and she certainly wasn’t smiling at him.
Shivaay knew why Daksh was pursuing Annika. It didn’t have anything to do with her at all. The stupid wager that he had set with him must have sent Daksh into action. Stupid man. No, Shivaay was the one who was stupid for letting this happen.
Shivaay : You shouldn’t get attracted to him.
Annika smiled tauntingly at him.
Annika : Why do you care if I do?
Shivaay : The man clearly has brains no bigger than a baby. He’s just a society parrot.
Annika : Obviously.
Shivaay blinked. This was not the response he was expecting.
Shivaay : Then why did you come out with him?
Annika : Because he asked.
Shivaay’s heart missed a beat. The words, so wistful, frustrated him.
Shivaay : That shouldn’t be enough, Annika.
She gave a small, sad smile that tugged at his heart.
Annika : It shouldn’t.
Shivaay felt a strange pressure in his chest at the words and, in that moment, the decision was made. He had to do something to make her happy.
Their gazes locked for several long moments and he took her hand in his. She attempted to remove it but he found that he could not let her go. His fingers tightened around hers, unyielding. She looked to him with surprise.
Shivaay : Come out with me.
Annika : Excuse me?
Shivaay : Let us go somewhere together, please? You came here with Daksh. Say you’ll come somewhere out with me also.
Annika : It’s not a competition, You know.
Shivaay : Then say yes. Please?
Annika looked at the earnestness in his eyes and nodded. He relaxed and smiled at her. Annika’s breath caught. She thought one bottle of his smile could make any disease, any suffering disappear. If only smiles could be sold, Annika would be his only customer.
Shivaay : Do you want to go for dinner tomorrow? Or a picnic?
Annika came back from her thoughts and shook her head.
Shivaay : A dance then? The mall? Anything.
Annika gave a wicked look and Shivaay frowned. He knew what this was about.
Shivaay : You’re thinking about your list, Aren’t you?
Annika : Of course. You said that I shouldn’t do anything without you. I’m merely sticking by my promise, You see.
Shivaay chuckled at her eagerness and nodded.
Shivaay : Alright then, Annika. Where do you want to go?
Annika : The Poker House.
Shivaay took a step back. Did she actually say….
Shivaay : The Poker House?
Annika nodded, satisfied.
Shivaay : You want to go gambling? In the Poker House?
Annika : That’s right, Mr Oberoi.
Shivaay : I don’t there’s any more need for formality between us after what you’ve asked me.
Annika : Alright then, Shivaay. You can take me to The Poker House where we shall gamble.
Shivaay : Do you even know how much money those people play for? Lakhs of rupees. Let me take you somewhere else. Somewhere where they won’t care. If anyone finds out you’ve been to the Poker House, they will….
Annika : I know how risky this is, Shivaay. However, going to some other casino or club is something that I can do any day. I want to go somewhere forbidden, somewhere that’s so public yet so private. Have you ever been there?
To Annika’s amusement, Shivaay flushed red.
Annika : Well, It looks like the man who managed to rescue a mermaid and seduce her is capable of blushing as well.
Shivaay stared at her.
Shivaay : A mermaid? I did no such thing.
Annika winked wickedly.
Annika : Ah! A rumour put to rest.
Shivaay : Coming back to the point, What if you’re caught?
Annika (scoffing) : We won’t get caught if we’re careful. I didn’t get caught in the tavern or the fencing club.
Shivaay : Have you forgotten that I caught you?
Annika : Yes, But you’re different.
Shivaay looked at her, exasperated.
Shivaay : How?
Annika : Well, it seems you are my partner in crime.
She smiled then, a beaming grin not unlike the one he’d seen her give Daksh earlier.
He lost his bluster at the words, feeling the full force of her pleasure like a blow, and a nonsensical wave of pride coursed through him…pride at being the one she would turn to with such excitement, pride at being the one she would ask to escort her on such an adventure. And, in that moment, with everyone mere inches away from their hiding place, he was struck by her beauty—her bright eyes and her mouth, wide and welcoming and enough to bring a man to his knees.
She was really quite extraordinary.
The revelation made it difficult to breathe, so intense was the truth of it.
Shivaay : You’re so beautiful.
Annika’s eyes narrowed and she scowled.
Annika : Don’t think you can flatter your way out of this. We’re going gambling.
Shivaay : Of course.
Annika : And your compliments won’t stop me. I will go whether you want me to or not.
Shivaay : Don’t worry. I will take you.
Annika : Even if you won’t take me…. I’m sorry, What did you say?
Shivaay : I said I would take you.
Annika : Oh!
Shivaay : Yes, I thought that might shut you up.
Annika looked at him offended.
Annika : Did you just call me a….
But she could say no more for he had set his lips to hers. She was consumed by his nearness, by his touch. The heat that emanated from his hands around her went all the way to her toes.
This kiss was different from all that they had shared before—softer, seeking, as though they were both discovering something altogether new. This was a concert of stroking tongue and soft lips. Shivaay lifted his head and waited for her to open her eyes; when she did, he was struck once more by her loveliness. He searched her face, watching as she returned from the sensual place where the kiss had taken her.
Annika : You said I was not exotic.
Shivaay : You’re not.
Annika’s eyes widened. But Shivaay moved forward and nibbled on her ear.
Shivaay : You’re intoxicating. You’re splendid. You’re a Goddess.
He kissed her again. Moving as one, they finally stopped, as Annika leaned against the wall, her hands tousling his hair.
Shivaay finally drew back, cursing as he did so. If they didn’t stop now, then explaining themselves to anyone who found them would be difficult.
Shivaay : I originally came to apologise to you.
Annika : I beg your pardon?
He pulled her into his arms as he placed a chaste kiss on her forehead.
Shivaay : My behaviour that day was inexcusable. In fact, my behaviour around you has been abominable every time. I don’t know why I keep…. You deserve better. I’m so sorry.
Annika looked at him, but did not say anything. Instead, she put her arms around him and settled her head on his shoulders. Shivaay was astonished. For all their kisses and conversations, this was the first time that they had hugged. It felt comforting.
It felt right.
He kept an arm around her waist while he played with her hair with the other. Finally, Annika drew back and gave him a small, shy smile.
Shivaay : I made peace with Swara.
He did not know why he felt that he had to tell her, but he did.
Surprise flashed across her face, there and gone so quickly, he wasn’t entirely certain it had been there at all.
Annika : I am happy to hear it. She is a good girl. And I believe she is coming to care for you deeply.
The words made him uncomfortable though he could not understand why.
Shivaay : I’ll wait in the alley next to your house tonight. Will it be possible to go today?
Annika : I will be there. I think I should return now. People will be looking for me.
Shivaay frowned. Daksh Khanna again. How he wished he could punch and break a few teeth of the man.
Shivaay : Yes, you looked quite enraptured with the paintings. I won’t deprive you of them. I wish I understood what drew you to them but you know I prefer music instead.
The last words were spoken softly near her ear. They were meant to fluster her, to remind her of the evening in his room… of their first kiss. The strategy worked, and Shivaay couldn’t help the pleasure that shot through him at the sound of her breath catching.
Annika : I should go now.
She looked at him for a long time, then turned and went out the same way they had entered.
Shivaay smiled as he realised he would meet her again tonight.
SHIVIKA – TEMPTING MR OBEROI