Since we are celebrating all things romance, here’s an excerpt from my book…
I hope you enjoy the meet cute between Krish and Maya. A little shameless plug coming up: do consider buying the book. You will find the links to Amazon at the end of the excerpt. Many thanks for reading!
‘YOU’RE SURE SHE will be here tonight?’
Krish strode into the glittering ballroom of New Delhi’s spanking new seven-star hotel, The Dev Residency, speaking softly into his BlackBerry. He wasn’t surprised at the confirmation,but he had to be one hundred percent certain.
‘And does she know who sent her the invite?’
The response confirmed that everything had gone exactly as planned.
‘Shabash! Tumsey yehi umeed thi. Well done. I knew you could do it.’ Krish snapped his BlackBerry shut.
He felt a thrill of anticipation. Having dealt with hundreds of negotiations and myriad client types, this one should be a breeze. But it was different from anything that he had done before. His BlackBerry pinged again as a new message hit his inbox: Just in case you have difficulty recognising her. He scrolled down and found an image file that his leave-nothing-to-chance assistant, Rohan Shetty, had attached. He needn’t have; Krish would recognise her anywhere. Even though he had seen her only once. And that too through a thick, tinted plate glass window. As he glanced at the digitised image on his BlackBerry, he felt the same hot rush of blood as when he had seen her yesterday. Even if his eyes betrayed him, his libido wouldn’t!
This was not about sex, Krish admonished himself, but a business deal. He had learnt one thing in his five years as a top-ranking strategic management consultant: the higher the risk, the more delicate the deal-making, the greater the chance of failure. This one was up there, in terms of risk factor. Too many unknown variables, as they said in management-speak.
Only two days ago, he had the perfect plan in place. He even had a shortlist of five eligible, ambitious candidates. Their backgrounds had been thoroughly researched and they all fitted the bill – that of the ‘ideal bride’ that he could present to his dear, dictatorial dad. Of course, she would have to first sign a watertight contract. The most critical clause of the contract was that the chosen candidate would have to keep the marriage a secret, even from her own family. And, most significantly, from the media hounds. The price for her silence would be a luxurious lifestyle, way beyond anything she could dream of.
As he’d waited in the air-conditioned lobby of the British High Commission for his meeting with the High Commissioner, Krish had been contemplating his dilemma. He did not have the luxury of time to make a decision. And yet he found no valid reason not to pick one of the candidates and run with his plan. Dammit, none of the chosen women had the ‘right vibe’! The gut-feel reaction that rarely failed him in his professional decision-making was missing. Krish trusted his instincts as much as his skills that he had honed since his Harvard education. They had enabled him to mount many a successful business campaign for his clients.
It was then that she had come into his field of vision. Almost like something that the hot summer winds had blown onto the manicured lawns of the British High Commission. Beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows, he’d seen her standing in knee-deep muddy waters, fixing a leaky pipe, shouting orders at a bunch of clueless gardeners. Krish had watched, totally mesmerised. Task accomplished, she’d lifted her hair away from the nape of her neck as she’d plodded towards the entrance of the building in her soaking wet, hip-hugging cut-off jeans. The sight of her perfect curves and make-up-less face glowing with sweat and the satisfaction of a job well done kept his eyes glued to her. Her firm breasts pushing against her cotton T-shirt made Krish feel hot under the collar. Had the air-conditioning in the lobby developed a snag? Or was it the girl he was looking at through the window?
A few discreet enquiries and Krish had soon had her complete dossier on his desk by late last evening. And his gut had finally kicked in! She was the perfect candidate. His detectives – working extra-hard for a fat bonus to unearth every little detail about her – had informed him that she had no family to speak of, in Delhi or anywhere else for that matter. That her father, a poor government school teacher, had died four years ago in her home town of Howrah in West Bengal. She had moved to the capital to pursue a college degree and a career. Her ambition, however, more than made up for her humble background. She had financed her own college education through a scholarship at Miranda House, the high-brow college where daughters of the rich and famous studied.
Six months ago she had joined Evergreen Consultants, reputed landscape designer Kavita Dayal’s firm, as a lowly intern. But within weeks she had been assigned one of Evergreen’s prestigious clients—the British High Commission—and she was already looking for suitable opportunities to further her career. She had even applied for the position of Nursery Manager at one of the most well-known private horticultural gardens in the country—the one owned by the host of this party. And that gave Krish the perfect bait. Everything was right about her…All he needed to do was pitch his proposition, in a way that she could never refuse. Easy as pie!
He felt the same prickling sensation he’d had last time he’d seen here—his body was on high alert. She had to be here. He scanned the room and his eyes zeroed in on Maya Shome, stunning in sleek stilettos and a black halter dress that dipped dangerously low, revealing acres of silky smooth skin. Time to make his move.
Maya sipped a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and surveyed the ballroom. The crème de la crème of New Delhi was out in full force. The women, dripping diamonds and showing off their freshly acquired Botox pouts. The men in their Armanis, sipping eighteen-year-old Single Malts, talking shop as their eyes did the inevitable chick checkout. She smirked—men would be men. Predictable down to the tips of their Gucci-clad toes.
Entrepreneurs and politicos, corporate honchos and models, fashionistas and aspiring social climbers mingled with ease as champagne flowed and a live band played. Kamalkant Dev, the Chairman of Dev Group of Enterprises, darling of the media as much for his high-stakes corporate takeovers as for his celebrity lifestyle and affairs with nubile Bollywood nymphets, was celebrating his fifty-fifth birthday. KD, as he was known among friends and foes alike, was never known to do anything in half measures and this party wasn’t any different. But to her he was Enemy Number One.
For thirteen out of her twenty-three years, KD’s very name had evoked just one emotion—pure, unadulterated hatred. She felt a shiver of dread run down her spine. What would it be like to finally come face to face with the man whose very existence filled her with such malevolence? She hoped and prayed she wouldn’t freeze. She had prepared, planned and plotted for this day ever since her Papa died four years ago.
Yet when she finally got a chance to break into the inner circle that this filthy-rich incarnation of the Devil thrived in, it felt almost anti-climactic. In fact, there was something uncannily chancy about the whole thing. The phone on her office desk had rung just as she was about to leave for home. She had had a good mind to ignore it but she picked it up. It was her client at the British High Commission. After making a few enquiries about the ongoing landscaping assignment, Jane Hill got to the point. ‘If you’re free tomorrow night, you may want to be at a party that the Dev’s are throwing at their new hotel. Apparently, your work at our lawns has impressed Mr. Dev. And he is keep to meet you in person.’
‘Really? You mean the Kamalkant Dev of Dev Group of Enterprises?’
‘Well, someone from his office called and wanted to know if we had your home address. But I thought I would check with you first. If you ask my personal opinion, this could be a big turn in your career.’
‘Oh, thanks so much for the heads-up, Jane. I really appreciate it.’
A gold-embossed invitation had arrived promptly at her address. And Maya marvelled at the lucky break she had got. But, as some wise soul had said, ‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.’ She had to grab every opportunity that came her way to achieve her only objective—to bring down the man who had tormented her father’s every living moment and made his life an eternal hell.
The Dev Residencey was the newest uber-opulent hangout of the rich and famous. Surrounded by acres of greenery in the heart of Delhi, its grand architecture and décor harked back to colonial times but its amenities belonged very much to the twenty-first century. Heck, some would even say twenty-second century. For Maya, the Residency’s appeal lay in its sprawling gardens, which boasted some of the most exotic flora. She would give an arm and a leg to be able to just walk through the marvellous grounds.
But now that she’d got the invitation she was in panic mode. Conjuring up appropriate eening wear for the occasion from her pathetic wardrobe would defeat even a master magician. Visions of her walking into the ballroom dressed like Cinderella in rags gave her the heebie-jeebies. After an extremely stressful shopping session, Maya had found just the outfit that would pass muster. But boy, the hole that it had left in her meagre bank balance…well, that was something she would panic about some other day. For now, it was ‘party time’!
She scanned the ballroom, looking for her quarry and couldn’t help notice that the choice of floral decoration was the exquisite lavender rose. A sharp pang twisted through her, reminding her of Papa, who had perfected the art of growing these beautiful, exotic flowers. She reached out to touch a delicate petal. The presence of Papa’s special flower was like a good omen; as if he was watching over her. She felt lucky tonight.
‘Beautiful,’ drawled a deep, gravelly voice.
Maya’s eyes darted towards the man standing a couple of feet away from her. Awareness zinged through her as her eyes clashed with a pair of dark, dancing eyes set in a face that was all sharp angles, framed by thick cropped hair. It should have made for an all too severe effect but for the deep cleft that dented his chin. His lopsided sexy smile had her pulse doing a crazy dance. He left her in no doubt that she was the object of his appraisal.
Flustered, she dragged her eyes away from his sexy cleft chin and tried to gather her scattered wits. ‘It’s a shame to present such beauty with so little imagination.’
‘You would have done it differently?’
She stole a quick look at him. The light stubble only accentuated his chiselled jaw while his cream-coloured silk shirt parted ever so slightly to reveal a superbly toned body.
‘Maybe,’ she replied, annoyed at herself for being so easily waylaid by his sex appeal, which he no doubt regularly used with deadly precision on women at parties like these.
‘You’re right.’ He turned his mesmerising dark eyes on her again ‘Exotic beauties need to be treated with more delicacy and…’ he gave her a slow look-over ‘imgination.’
Her body thrummed with awareness. He smiled knowingly, almost as if he’d felt her instinctive jolt of reaction, and held out his hand. ‘I am Krish.’
‘It will be a pleasure to get to know you,’ he muttered almost to himself as he turned the handshake into something less formal, more intimate, touching his lips to her fingers. Maya felt the tremor of awareness go up a notch higher on her internal Richter scale.
She disengaged her hand and pretended a nonchalance she did not feel. ‘The décor is all wrong for a splendid specimen such as the lavender rose.’
‘So what would be your perfect setting for it?’
‘Regal, definitely. A backdrop of rich white silk or even satin.’
‘And a hint of gold?’
‘Precisely. You don’t need a profusion of these roses. Just a few can make for a stunning effect.’
His eyes skimmed over her perfect heart-shaped face with the large, limpid kohl-lined eyes—brown with a hint of hazel. The dangling golden strands in her ears and the thin gold chain around her slender neck indeed created a stunning impact. ‘There’s a lot to be said for the minimalist appeal.’
Maya felt her toes curl in the face of his appraisal. He was smooth. Very smooth. ‘Besides, these roses would be quite difficult to find.’
‘For KD, money is of no consequence.’
‘It’s not just the money. To grow them in hothouses, you need skilled professionals,’ she pointed out.
‘No doubt you are in the horticulture business.’
She shrugged. ‘It’s obvious, isn’t it? And you… work for KD?’ she enquired.
‘I’m a boring management consultant. Unlike your work, mine is totally devoid of any charm.’
Maya laughed. ‘I once tried to get a job at KD’s gardens but was rejected.’
‘Not enough experience?’ he enquired.
‘Sadly, you can’t show a diploma certificate for home-grown skills.’
‘Ah, a daughter of the soil! Who would have guessed?’
‘You mean you actually thought I’m one of the lotus-eating women whose passion is to stalk rich men at Page Three do’s like this one?’
His eyes danced with amusement. ‘Nope, you’re nothing like them. You’re more like that lavender rose—exotic and rare.’
Her heart flipped again at his easy charm and her hands were getting clammier by the minute. ‘I may not be the Page Three type, but you definitely need to brush up on your pickup lines.’
His heartbreakingly sheepish smile almost did her in. ‘Worth a shot, anyway.’
His glance took in her now empty glass and he was all chivalry. ‘Let me get you some more…Cabernet Sauvignon, if I’m not wrong?’
She smiled, ‘Quite the connoisseur, aren’t you?’
He shrugged those invitingly broad shoulders. ‘Comes with the territory. Hey, don’t disappear. I will be back in just a sec.’
This would give her an excuse to get away from him. Or wait. Maybe he could introduce her to KD? He definitely seemed to know a lot about KD’s operations. He intrigued her. His supreme confidence indicated that he couldn’t be just another employee. His demeanour was that of one who was used to parlaying sexy banter with sassy women. Not her type at all.
But did she even know what her ‘type’ was? All through her college years, she’d found it difficult to mix with her classmates, most of whom came from rich families. She’d been the odd one out—the orphan with no influence or money. Not that her classmates weren’t friendly. Just that she never felt quite comfortable with them. Or they with her. Her world was so different from theirs. She now realised that her self-preservation emanated an aloof vibe. So she never got invited to the weekend visits to the mall or the movies. She was never welcomed to their homes for their birthdays and they never gossiped to her about their dates and boyfriend woes.
As for going out on dates—there had been no time for the fun things that girls her age did. The scholarship she had won was only enough for fifty percent of the tuition fees. To keep body and soul together she’d worked two part-time jobs: as a waitress at a local pub and as a dance teacher in a posh Delhi neighbourhood.
Quite often a guy at the pub would make a pass at her. Most of them, of course, were sloshed and pretty offensive. Once in a while though some cute guy would try and buy her a drink. But her self-preservation instinct made sure she stayed cool and aloof. Her touch-me-not demeanour was a douche of cold water on any amorous feelings that a man might have harboured. I would put myself off with that attitude, she thought wryly.
‘So, what’s with the Mona Lisa smile?’ Krish was back. And her heart did yet another somersault at his sexy drawl. Now where did that come from? It seemed like her self-preservation instinct had taken the day off.
‘Just thinking that you have really mastered the art of charming small talk.’ Her thick eyelashes fluttered down to hide her emotions.
‘Good! That means you were thinking of me and find me charming.’
She couldn’t take her eyes off his cleft chin. She wanted to run her fingers over it—an urge she barely managed to control.
‘Nah, wrong conclusion. You’re just not my type.’
‘And what type would that be?’
‘You know—the oh-I’m-so-gorgeous-that-women-can’t-help-but-fall-over-me type.’
His sexy throaty laugh made her want to do just what she said she wouldn’t—fall all over him! She couldn’t believe she was flirting with this charming devil. It took all her willpower to drag her eyes away from his super-star handsome face and scan the room. She needed to track down KD fast, if only to put some distance between herself and Krish’s mesmeric eys.
‘You know what they say about not judging a book by its cover? The same goes for people too!’ he drawled as he grabbed her hand to get her wandering attention. The live band had struck up a Latino beat. ‘How about a tango, Mona Lisa?’
He didn’t miss the look of surprise on her face as she countered, ‘Tango, huh? Trust me, you don’t want to make that move!’
‘There are no wrong moves in tango. Only new ones.’
The arrogant challenge and the supercilious look in his eyes were Maya’s undoing. ‘Your sure your are up to it?’ she countered with relish.
Her wild side kicked in. She headed for the dance floor, Krish a step behind her. She could feel his warm breath on her back; his masculine scent enveloped her making her nerve-endings tingle.
Starting off like a couple of combatants on the dance floor, Krish and Maya moved to the beat of the music, intuitively anticipating and syncing their movements with each other. Maya was soon absorbed in the passionate ritual of doing the tango. Swirling and twirling as the guests watched, enthralled. As Maya’s voluptuous curves fitted into his lean, muscular frame, they looked as if they had been practising the tango for years. Never missing a beat. Enjoying every pulsating moment as their bodies twirled as one.
Hope you enjoyed the excerpt…And if you would like to read further, please consider hitting one of the buy links below. Thanks for reading!