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First pages


Soumya plonked down at her desk and hunched closer to the girl who sat across her.

“Has he arrived yet?” She asked her colleague.

 Kirti gave her a look of feigned innocence. “Has who arrived?”

Soumya shot her an impatient glance. “You know very well who. Stop fooling around. Especially not today, please Kirti.”

Her friend quirked one eyebrow. “Is it that time of the month for you?”

Soumya rolled her eyes. “You’re impossible, sometimes. Has he?”

“Guess not that time of the month, then! Do you mean Mr. Seth? Yes, he arrived about ten minutes ago. He’s very punctual, isn’t he? Very out of keeping for a movie star.”

“Oh damn!” Soumya frowned her displeasure ignoring the latter half of Kirti’s discussion.

"Why? Did you want to see him?” Kirti stuck her tongue out playfully.

“Not really.” Her lips pressed into a fine line.

“I thought… Is he…How did he look?” Her eyes never left Kirti’s face.

Kirti’s eyes furrowed, sending her a strange look, across the desk. She hurriedly took a call from one of their managers and dealt with the query swiftly. “Yes, we ordered roses for the guests and the caterers have been informed of the menu.”

Even though the event had been scheduled two months from now, the managers of the PR firm kept calling to check and recheck silly details.

“How do you think he looked?” Kirti said after the minor interruption. “How he always looks, dreamy, divine and so devastatingly handsome. Just as tall and breathtaking as usual.”

“Did he seem different? From the usual?” Soumya went on as Kirti’s eyes crinkled at the corners.

“What the hell’s gotten into you Soumya?” Kirti shook her head. “Can you please focus on work. It seems like you come here to the office only for good chats, work is a side task for you. And since you’re asking, let me tell you, Mr. Seth always looks the same. He acts the same way he always does. He walks in here and goes straight into the private lift for the movie stars without acknowledging any of us. He does the same thing when he leaves, only in reverse. He doesn’t see the rest of us mortals, ants as we are. I’ve watched him for fifteen months ever since he had that blockbuster release of his. An Oscar nomination for the foreign film did wonders for his career but nothing for his attitude."

Their brief chat ceased as soon as Soumya’s phone rang. At ten thirty, work officially began. Editors, agents, caterers, and journalists all called about fixtures and schedules. Being the junior most public relations agent at the firm, she was left with all the grunt work. She found herself very busy for the next hour. She felt like a traffic cop directing people to speak to her boss or informing her managers they needed to call so and so.

After the initial flood of calls and emails, the first wave of the morning had been handled. She sank back in her chair for a few minutes to relax. Kirti remained on the phone talking to a pesky agent about his client, a snooty singer. “Could the diva lip-sync the national anthem?”

Even Soumya could hear the agent bellowing over the phone.

“No,” Kirti said resolutely. “Your diva has already accepted a cheque paying her three times the amount to sing live.” While all this went on Soumya had time to dwell on her actions.

She’d been a fool. A grand idiot. She’d done the most outrageous thing she’d ever done in her whole life. Of course, she’d done many silly things all throughout, but this one trumped them all. Without a doubt, she would lose her job for what she had done, and it had been a good job, with all the perks and fat pay at the end of the month. Free food and weekly goodie bags, courtesy of sponsors. She must have lost her mind. Her brain had taken a leave of absence temporarily while she did it. That could be the only reason for her impulsive actions. When she had seen the announcement in the newspapers this morning she felt sick, violently sick. Her coffee traveled all the way up her throat and she swallowed it back down. And yet no one else at the office had seen it— for a public relations firm, news traveled slowly, even though some of that news was about their very own client.

Someone had to have seen it already. It could hardly be missed. To her, it looked larger than life. It had been there in the newspaper for all to see, an intended marriage between Soumya Ninan and Vir Seth. Her own engagement to the current Bollywood heartthrob of the nation! And the worst part of it was, he knew nothing about it. She picked up the phone on her desk as it trilled.

“Soumya Ninan, good morning,” she said automatically.

“Come to the office, now!” snapped a deep male voice.

The phone almost fell in her panic. Vir Seth, himself. It had to be! But how did he get her internal number?

She cleared her throat. “I—I beg your pardon?”

“When I've finished with you, you’ll certainly be begging,” he growled. “Your manager’s office. Now.”

She jumped when the receiver slammed at the other end. She didn't need to be told that he’d seen the announcement in the newspapers. The cold fury in his voice caused her to shake.

“Something wrong?” Kirti asked, noting her trembling fingers.

Soumya realized with a start that her fingers still squeezed tight on the receiver. She put it down hurriedly.

“I—I have to go up to the office. Just take any calls if they come, please.” She stood on shaky legs. What had she gotten herself into?

“Sure. Are you sure you’re alright Soumya? Whatever it is, I’m sure the boss will understand.” Kirti offered sympathetically.

Soumya didn't know how she made her way to the lift to the top floors, but somehow, she seemed to have managed it. Staff had never been allowed to use it. She had only ever used this lift once before in the eleven months she had worked on Vir Seth’s campaign, and that had been three weeks ago when she had been induced to seek this terrible revenge on him. It had all started when the model who’d be on a perfume shoot with him had arrived for their head shots. She’d been asked to take the model up to the waiting room and was ecstatic about running into him.

Kirti had been right for the most part. Whenever he sauntered past the doors of their agency, he didn’t give anyone on the floor a second look with those caramel eyes of his.

She searched for him on the top floor. His assistant had gone off on an errand. The secretary was busy with another “star” over the phone and asked her to show the model in. Outside the waiting room, the model suddenly wanted to use the restroom to touch up her makeup before she met Vir Seth. It meant she’d get a chance to speak to him herself.

Since she’d begun work here, and he had walked into the building she had fallen for him. Hard. Who wouldn’t? He was so effortlessly charismatic. He stood tall like most Punjabi men, well over six feet, with a lithe athletic body that suggested hours of hard work at the gym, his fair skin, unblemished, putting most women to shame. His dark hair cropped close to his face, his soulful caramel eyes under those dark, sooty eyelashes were so enigmatic. But where she had been instantly attracted to him he hadn't reacted at all; those brown eyes looked right through her.

She knew she wasn't beautiful, but she wasn't that plain either. Dark hair with subtle gold tints swung easily about her shoulders in gleaming waves, her dark eyes surrounded by long thick lashes, her small wriggly nose, upturned lips, dusky complexion and slender frame all added up to a fairly attractive young girl.

And yet to Vir Seth, she might have not even been a woman. She was far too unsophisticated for his tastes. But she knew he wasn't always ignorant about a woman's charms; he was reputed to have had many beautiful women in his life at one time or another. The glossies described him as a Playboy. An image he didn’t shun. His self-assured arrogance proved evidence of his confidence to seduce without words.

No, here was a man who’d enjoyed women. Many of them. And the fact that they walked away from him without complaint, meant they’d got what they bargained for. Maybe that had sparked off her desire to lash out at him.

Leaving the model in the restroom, she hovered at the door before knocking. She could hear the faint murmur of masculine voices and realized Vir Seth wasn't alone. With the door slightly ajar, she heard the exchange. They’d been laughing about something. Her boss asked Vir a question, his voice low.

She was about to knock on the door when his words silenced here.

Vir’s deep throaty voice floated to her ears, his amusement obvious. “I'm afraid I only find women good for one thing,” he scoffed lightly. “And I don't mean cooking,” he added with deep laughter. Soumya had stepped back with a gasp. What nerve! The meaning behind his words was obvious and she found herself waiting open-mouthed for his companion's answer. She knew she should really knock, and alert them to her presence before they said anything else, but for some strange reason, she couldn’t bring herself to do it. The curiosity in her kept her transfixed.

“Come on Vir,” her manager said, hardly embarrassed. “You love the ladies as much as they love you. I mean look at all the gifts you get and the ones you take home with you,” he continued.

“I enjoy them,” Vir had corrected. “Love, no. I love my car, my pets, my Cartier watch, but a woman. Sorry, no. I've desired them, yes. But I find them preferable in only one room of the house and that’s about it.”

“If any of those women heard the way you talk, you’d have no fans left,” he said with a chuckle.

Soumya wanted to yell the office down and let everyone know what a sleaze Vir Seth really was after hearing his ridiculous statements. She had never felt repulsed by him. How a man as successful and good looking as Vir Seth could over-generalize all the women in the world, because of the type he associated with was ludicrous. In her dreams, he appeared as the dazzling hero, who upheld women’s virtue and to think he painted all of them as sluts seemed grossly unfair.

“From my experience, it wouldn’t matter,” he replied carelessly. “They're usually well satisfied and well-compensated for their— talents,” he added with a sneer. “I’m never going to be trapped by marriage, but none of my women could ever call me selfish. I’ve been more than generous.”

“I’m sure they’re full of gratitude,” the other man laughed.

Soumya had decided she had just about heard enough of this distasteful conversation, knocking firmly on the door and entering when allowed to do so.

“Yes?” Her manager, Anurag sent her an inquiring look.

Vir Seth raised an eyebrow, his eyes brooding, clearly unhappy at the interruption. Soumya stopped in her tracks, the anger slowly fading as she finally stood face to face with the devilishly handsome actor. Her breath hitched at the lazy smile he sent her way, leaving her tongue-tied.

When she finally found her voice, it came out like a dying cat. She couldn’t help the stammer, “I—um—I—I've brought up the model for the headshots. She'll be with you in a minute.” He smiled at her again, his eyes crinkling in the corners, obviously enjoying her discomfort. Oh yes, he was.

“Looks like you forgot to bring her in with you,” he joked.

Anurag chuckled as well. “Well, where is she, Soumya?”

Soumya swallowed not wanting to paint the rest of her fair race in bad light, “She’s quite nervous to meet you, she might take some time,” she answered breathlessly. Where was that damn model anyway? Was she taking a shower as well?

He looked every inch the smug movie star primed and ready for a challenge, the sun from the window filtering through his hair. Her manager sat a little away from him. Even now, his profile was dreamy. And he wasn’t even making an effort.

Soumya turned and left the room. She stilled outside the door as she heard him give a throaty chuckle. “See what I mean,” he said with amusement.

“What?" Anurag hastily questioned.

Vir couldn’t help contain his mirth, “A smile and a few softly spoken words and any woman will melt, drop their clothes and bend to your every whim, even that little kitty. She didn’t come here to bring the model. She came here to see me. I think that’s obvious.”

“So? You’re an actor. Women are floored by you. If they’re not, you’d be a pauper and nobody would care about your movies.”

“They’re all the same, Anurag. Chicks like her are plentiful enough. I’m not going to be caged by the Shaadi trap. No woman is going to pull that on me.”

Kitty indeed! She would show him. Fury pumped through her veins. His looks might be fantastic, but the man was disgusting. Everything about him revolted her. She would make him eat his words. Vir Seth had no idea what was coming to him. When he left the building with that model in tow, her anger erupted anew. That’s when the idea sprang to her mind. A cunning trick. She’d announce her own engagement to him and see what he had to say to that. He’d be the butt of many jokes.

Be that as it may, now she had to face him. What was done was done. She hoped she looked more self-confident than she felt. Her insides churned and she knew in all likelihood she would be fired. He would rip her to shreds in Anurag’s office, and she deserved some of it.

Her manager, Anurag Mathur, seemed busy she could tell. No doubt, putting out fires, while they burned out of control.

Anurag gave her a disbelieving look but buzzed her in any way. Vir Seth stood by his side.

“Hurry up,” he snapped. This didn’t sound good. Not good at all.

 She cowered nervously outside the office, suddenly afraid of confronting him.

“Anurag, could you give us a moment please.”

Anurag gave her a cool look.

She reluctantly entered. This time he didn’t flash his dimpled smile, only a furious energy about his whole profile existed. His eyes glittered with rage. He strode to the front of the desk and leaned against it. His arms folded in front of his powerful chest. He’d dressed up today. For an event? Certainly not for her.

Despite her situation, she couldn’t help getting weak in the knees at the sight of him. He’d worn a black pin-striped suit, the fit immaculate as it sat snug on his athletic frame.

“So you're Soumya Ninan,” he said, his tone curt.

"Yes," she mumbled.

He was clearly imposing his worth on her. She knew perfectly well that her gray kurta and dark churidar pants in no way matched up to the expensive clothing of his female companions. By those standards, she was dressed like a maid.

But did he have to look at her like that? Like as if studying every hair on her head. She dropped her head and wrung her hands.

“The girl I'm supposedly engaged to,” he continued.

Her eyes shot up. “I—I can explain that.”

He smiled, but it didn’t reach his caramel eyes. “Can you now?” he mused. “You can explain how I’m engaged to be married to a complete stranger, can you?” His light eyes were furious. “It had better be good!”

Soumya squirmed in her seat. “I wouldn't say that,” she said clumsily. “But I have an explanation. I’m not sure you’re going to like it.”

This time he snapped, “I don't quite like being engaged to a girl I've never met before! Nobody in their right mind would. Now hurry up!”

Soumya gasped at the sound of his voice and tried to placate him. “We’ve met before. I work here, I've seen you quite often for the last year.”

“Seeing isn't the same as knowing. I've seen hundreds of people many times over but that doesn't mean I know them,” he said in a sharp voice.

“But we have actually met,” she corrected him. “I brought a model up here for your headshots a few weeks ago.'

Vir Seth studied her for a moment. “So you did.”

“And that's why I made the announcement!'

Vir stood straight in a flash, hands on his slim hips. “Because you brought a model up to this office?” he sounded astounded.

“Don't be stupid!” She had enough of his mockery. His anger was justified but he deserved every bit of it. “I did it because I overheard your conversation that day, overheard what you had to say about women,” she said, chin raised, feeling vindicated.

“Did you indeed?” His caramel eyes narrowed. “And that prompted you to announce your own engagement to me? Me? After how I described the reality of women?”

“Yes, it did!” She said firm, finding her voice. “I wanted to punish you, make you eat your words, to show you that you’re no different. Kitty, isn’t that what you called me? Who’s the kitty now? You could just as easily be caught as the next man. Of course, now that you’ve learned your lesson we can forget this ever happened. I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t have done it. But we can call it even. I know you will have me fired. So save the speech. I’ve had enough of your crap for this morning.” She stood up and made to leave when his fingers closed on her wrist like a vise.

“Sit down.”

She blinked at his seething face. Meekly she obeyed.

“Oh no, you don’t. This morning, Anurag and half the damn world called to congratulate me. I didn't know what he was talking about,” he said with venom. “I felt a damned fool. But I managed to bluff my way out of it. Can you imagine what it felt like to be told by someone else that I'm supposed to be getting married? I had never heard the name Soumya Ninan. You’re no kitty,” he hissed.

“You shouldn’t have called me that!”

“And for that, you landed us in this mess?”

 Soumya took a deep breath. “It will be all right. I know the editors of the newspaper. We can just announce it was a mistake or an elaborate joke.”

He loomed over her, and she craned her neck to see him. She’d forgotten how big and masculine he appeared compared to her small frame.

"You think it's as easy as that, do you? What kind of a PR agent are you? Don't you realize that by accepting everyone’s congratulatory wishes this morning I admitted as much the engagement was a real one? Anurag's also organizing a small party this evening, to appease the media.”

“You refused, didn’t you?” She frowned.

“Of course, I didn’t. There was nothing else I could do. They all want to have a good look at the woman I’m marrying apparently.” His gaze roamed over in open disgust.

“You could have made something up. Like we wanted to be alone this evening or that we’d prefer to celebrate alone,” she said rapidly.

“Well we don't all have your extraordinary talent of fibbing, do we? Though I must compliment you on your devious mind.”

“But you can’t be serious about this?” She stared at him incredulously.

“I do. I'm an actor. I can't seem to be engaged one day and renounce it the next. I have female fans, Soumya. They’re going to hate me if I cast you aside in just a day. That wouldn't do much for my career. Oh no, Soumya, you started this mess and you can damn well see it through to the bitter end.”

Soumya didn’t like that finality to him; that single-mindedness that meant he couldn’t be thwarted. A pity she hadn't noticed that sooner, like last night when she’d signed off on that bloody announcement. “But I don't want to be engaged to a man like you,” she whined.

“A pity you didn't think of that before. I'm sure you realize I feel much the same way. And I didn’t have anything to do with this stunt you pulled.” He ran a hand through his short hair. “Well, now that everyone knows you can start acting the part. We'll have lunch at one.”

“I couldn't—I couldn't go out to lunch with you. What would everyone say?”

Besides, she was hardly dressed to go out with him. There was no way she’d stack up against him.

“They can think what they damn well please,” he muttered under his breath.

“Alright, that’s enough,” Soumya snapped, her breath shallow and fast. “I admit I was wrong. I’ll resign immediately if that’s what you want. There’s no need to make a joke out of me. You think I don’t know what you’re trying to do? Making me look like a fool. The handsome Vir Seth taking an average plain Jane out to lunch.”

“I think you've managed to look the fool quite successfully without any help from me,” he interrupted dryly.

“You have no right, Mr. Seth.”

He banged his fist on the table. “I have every right! Think of how much bigger a fool you would have looked if I'd denied all knowledge of you. Think of the negative press if I'd done that. They would have hounded you to death.”

She knew he was right. She hadn't thought of the consequences when she had made that stupid move, and now Vir Seth would make her pay for it. Still, she’d come out the loser in this. But what else had she expected? He was a well-known personality, he couldn't afford the publicity of a broken engagement. And neither could she! What would her family say? They’d be so disappointed in her.

But she couldn't stay engaged to him either. He was nothing she imagined him to be. Those had been wool spun dreams. How had she ever thought herself in love with him? She must have lost her damn mind. Yes, that must be it; at twenty-six years of age, she was past the age of infatuation.

“Soumya?” he cut into her thoughts.

“Don't call me that!” she yelled.

“What do you want me to call you—Jaan, darling, my love?” he taunted.

She huffed. “Of course not! Quit being so smug.”

Vir Seth shrugged. “Then I'll call you Soumya. It is your name —and you are my fiancée,” he added mockingly.

“I am not!” She shot back. “You’re not being reasonable about this.”

“Oh yes, I am being absolutely reasonable, even though you don’t deserve it. You are engaged to me until I say otherwise.” He said without mincing words.

Her dark eyes widened. “And how long will that be?”

“Five, maybe six months,” he told her casually.

“What!” She jerked forward on impulse. “Are you telling me I have to stay engaged to you for five months?”

“At a minimum,” he nodded.

Tears glazed her eyes. But she didn’t dare cry. He was punishing her and enjoying himself while he did it. How had this all backfired?

“I can’t do this Mr. Seth. What will happen after?” She asked softly. “I’m from the south. No half decent man is going to want me after I stay engaged that long to you.” Not with his reputation. She didn’t voice it but she was sure he knew what she meant. “Surely you can think of something else.” She perked up, “Besides, won't it cramp your style a bit?”

His dangerous eyes glinted at her. “A little. This isn’t serious anyway. I gather there's no boyfriend —no, of course, there isn't. You don’t look the type for one,” he said in a patronizing manner.

“I am seeing proposals,” she continued even softer.

“Then stop. Is there anyone I should talk to about our engagement?” He didn’t bother about her concerns.

“Why on earth would you want to do that?” she complained.

“Isn’t that the protocol?”

Soumya paled even more. Her brother would be furious. “My parents are dead. My brother works for the Merchant Navy. I’m not sure I can get in touch with him soon. It’s been three years since I saw him”

“And three years ago you were?” He probed.

“Twenty-three,” she admitted quietly, remembering all too well the heated exchange between her and her brother. They vowed to never lay eyes on each other again after one of her impulsive outbursts.

“That makes you twenty-six now. Bloody hell!” Vir cursed in disgust. “I'm thirty-six,” he added.

“You’ve never had a girlfriend or married?” she inquired of him.

 He smiled for the first time this morning. “Once. I’d thought about it. But thank heavens she dumped me.”

Soumya blinked still mesmerized by his dimpled smile.

“Right—well, let me have a word with Anurag. You’ve wasted enough of my time for one morning,” he said, rising. “I'll see you downstairs at one. Get whoever it is that usually covers for you when your off sick to take over.”

When they walked to the door, he bent low and whispered in her ear, “Now, let’s play the part of a happy couple and I'll see you out to the lift.”

Soumya stiffened. They were truly going through with this. “That won't be necessary.”

He opened the door to let her out. “But I insist. I must show people how much I adore my brand-new fiancée,” he taunted.

Her eyes beseeched. “Please, Mr. Seth, don't…” she pleaded.

“Vir,” he corrected curtly. “Call me Vir.”

She couldn't do that! “Please don't make me go through with this. I've apologized, I’ll do anything else you ask.”

“An apology isn't enough,” he said cruelly. “I've already explained my reasons. I could make things very unpleasant for you if you make things any more difficult.”

“I could walk away.” Soumya hung back defiantly, not willing to leave the safety of the office and face the real world. “This is not the only PR firm in the country.”

“Oh, I know that. But with that stunt, I’ll make sure you won’t work for any agency in this industry ever again.”

“You—you can't do that! I've been an employee of the month thrice in this company.”

“Is this what employee of the month does— embroil clients in scandals, the very clients they swear to protect?” he demanded. “Do you know I could take you to court for this shit? I could sue you. You're quoted, so it's pretty obvious who gave them the story.”

She went pale and then red.

“Now listen very carefully, Soumya. I wouldn't do that to you, although I could. But I do expect a little cooperation from you. This is your fault, after all.”

“All right, all right. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!” She protested

Vir looked unmoved. “Don’t make me repeat myself. Your apology means little to me.” He opened the door further. “I need to meet with Anurag. I have a shoot this morning. Damn it I was supposed to rehearse my lines today.”

She swallowed, “What do I tell everyone?”.

“Tell them I've fallen madly in love with you and rushed you off your feet.”

“This isn’t funny.”

He wrenched her chin up roughly between thumb and forefinger. “I don't know what else you bloody well expect me to do.”

Soumya stood mesmerized by his glittering eyes, aware of the paleness of his skin and the citrus aftershave he wore.

He silenced her as they paused at the lift to look down at her with those brooding caramel eyes. Again, he raised her chin, uncaring of the curious pairs of eyes watching them through glass cubicles.

“I'll see you later, love,” he said, huskily soft, but loud enough for the others to hear. “We'll have lunch at the usual place.”

Before Soumya could answer him, his dark head swooped low and his lips fleetingly touched her forehead. Her body shuddered. She looked self-consciously around if anyone saw them but no one gave them a second look.

Her mouth tightened. “Was that necessary?” she muttered angrily, her dark eyes glaring at him.

Vir laughed throatily. “Soumya, you say the sweetest things.” He played his part for his audience with finesse, she had to give him that. He was a good actor indeed!

She smiled aware of her spectators and said, “Only for you!”

Back at her desk, she squirmed in her seat. How she would get through the next five months engaged to Vir Seth she had no idea. Kirti sat fielding calls from her desk and handed a couple of yellow sticky notes to her. Soumya hadn’t expected to be gone so long but Vir Seth had other ideas. At the most, she thought it would take a few minutes to be fired or resign from her job.

“What happened? Is everything okay?” Kirti asked once her calls ceased and she sorted her emails. “You’ve been gone an hour. Did the boss say something? Is it bad?” Her voice faltered.

“I'm sorry I didn’t expect to be gone so long.” Soumya pretended to be busy, hoping to avoid answering her colleague. She absentmindedly scribbled on her notepad as if she were making notes.

Kirti pressed on undaunted by her show of work. “Are you going to tell me Soumya? Is it serious? Are we being asked to take a pay cut or getting fired?”

“No.” How could she explain to Kirti the mess she’d dragged herself into. Telling the truth was completely out of the question.

“Um— I got myself engaged.”

Kirti’s eyes widened. “What? You have?” Her initial excitement died down. “You never said anything before. I can’t believe you kept something as big as this.”

She swallowed, “It just happened all of a sudden. I hadn’t planned it.”

It certainly was no lie. She hadn’t realized how big her sham engagement would end up sounding to her friends and everyone who knew her. She was remotely aware of Vir Seth’s lingering lips on her forehead. Her heart sang a sweet song even though she’d protested.

She’d chalked that to her inexperience. It had been fleeting but she definitely found her heart hammering in response to his nearness. But the man she’d met this morning had caused her to dislike him, how she imagined herself in love with him she couldn’t understand.

Kirti still seemed confused. “Whom?”

 Soumya’s eyes darted back to the lift.

“You don't mean…”

“I'm engaged to Vir Seth.”

“What? But how can that be? I didn't even know you both were… dating.” Kirti's jaw dropped, her mouth hung open.

“It’s all very rushed. You see…?”

“Are you pregnant?” Kirti shot back.

“No!” Soumya looked aghast.

"Excuse me,” a woman interrupted them. “I'm waiting for Mr. Seth. Can you tell me which way is the private lift?”

Soumya turned to the woman, her mind reeling as she took in her seductively sultry voice. At five eight, the leggy beauty was a vision of beauty. Her chic bob framed her delicate face. Her skin glowed and her hazel eyes, sharp nose, and full pout could tempt a sage. Soumya blinked at the woman.

“He asked me to meet him at the waiting room.” Obviously one of Vir Seth's women, she thought to herself. She looked his type, about thirty-something fashionista.

“You can find him on the twelfth floor,'” she answered politely. “It’s the first office on the right.”

The woman nodded coolly. “Thank you, Miss— Ninan!” Her hazel eyes narrowed on the nameplate on the desk.

“You're Soumya Ninan?” The woman said incredulously, her gaze sweeping over Soumya.

“Yes, is there something else you need?”

“Well, well, well.” The woman said. “Vir seems to have played it well,” she murmured to herself.

“I’m sorry,” Soumya said after her.

The woman gave her a dazzling smile. “So nice to have met you, Soumya,” she said with a smirk.

The woman walked away from the desk on precarious heels.

“Do you know her?” she asked Kirti.

Kirti gasped. “That was Poonam Mishra."

Soumya’s eyes widened. “The wife of the multi-millionaire producer?”

Kirti nodded.

Wait, if she was married. Why was she meeting Vir Seth? Only one explanation seemed plausible and she didn’t like it. Ram Mishra was very popular in the film industry. He was also one of the richest men in India. Despite his age at forty-eight compared to his thirty-something-year-old wife, he looked good. She’d seen him when he came here for the occasional interview or signing of documents.

Soumya stared as the woman left an hour later. In a way, she was glad she left because the last thing she could stomach was sitting across from Vir and this woman feeling totally out of place.

When Vir came down she had managed to work herself into an agitated mess. Maybe he intended for them to appear as a couple and not, in essence, be one. She hoped that would be the case.


About me

Pamela Q. Fernandes is an author, doctor and medical writer. She's written many romance, speculative fiction and non Christian non-fiction books. Some of her other romances are Seoul-Mates, Under A Scottish Sky and Cinders of Castlerea. During her free time she hosts the Christian Circle podcast and designs her own merchandise. Many of her short stories have been published by Laksa Media and Greywolfe Publishing. You can find out more about her at

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
I guess at the time, a very famous Bollywood actor, Shahid Kapoor had gotten married and the age gap with his wife was widely discussed. And that's where I got thinking about the story. And there was a lot of speculation about how they met, which fueled my own imagination as well.
Q. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from this book?
Ooh. I definitely thought about it when I was writing. I would like a really cool Punjabi actor do this role. Ranbir Kapoor or even Siddharth Malhotra would be great as the lead actor. For the heroine, someone like Shruti Hassan or even Diana Penty with that girl, next door look would be awesome!
Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
I think making Vir likeable was hard. He's a Bollywood actor, vain and arrogant, Mr. Know-it-all & he's in an industry where gossip is rife and scandals are plenty. Him having to defend himself from Soumya's accusations and being a nice guy was a tight rope to balance.

Next in:
Candy Apple Tangerine
When cars become outlawed, an outlaw is born.
The Enemy at Home
Jack's Fight has Just Begun
Colored Rink
G's: Where beauty in death, is a requirement.