Authors: Adite Banerjie
His words took her completely by surprise. Did he mean it?
Nah! He’s just toying with you!
‘Suddenly you no longer have a problem being a boy toy?’ She wished she could take the words back. ‘Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.’
The cold look in his eyes and the awkward silence that followed made her jittery.
‘My brother always says I have this annoying habit of shooting my mouth off. I guess it will be best if I leave now.’
As she made to get off the parapet he put his arm around her waist and practically lifted her off. She pushed against him and felt the hard planes of his chest through his jacket, but he held her close. Heat slithered in her veins. His breath fanned the hair on her forehead and her own turned shallow. The blood pounded in her ears as she stole a quick look and stopped short at the hot intensity of his gaze. His eyes were focused on her glossy parted lips. He drew his thumb softly over her cheek and her heart tripped a beat before increasing its pace. She was fused to the spot, rooted by his touch, his gaze. She involuntarily leaned a little closer to him. Her lips were a heartbeat away from his.
His breath was on her lips as he whispered in a husky voice, ‘Your brother should have warned you…you get burnt if you play with fire.’ And then he let her go.
As a romance reader I have always enjoyed stories set in exotic locales. Tropical islands and sun-kissed beaches have just the right ambience for a hot and torrid romance, right? So when I started scouting for ideas for my second book I thought of setting it on a paradise-like island. There is something so delicious about having romantic trouble brewing in the most picturesque environment. Almost instantly the image of a wedding set in the Andaman Islands popped into my head. Browsing through photographs on the internet, I knew I had the perfect location for my novel.
All fired up, I hit the ground running with feisty and ambitious model Rayna, whose personal life is unravelling rapidly. She has been dumped by her boyfriend on the eve of her best friend’s high-society nuptials and needs to save face in front of her friends and family. Neel, the owner of a luxurious resort, is the perfect foil for the vivacious Rayna. He’s hot, enigmatic, and his sexy grey eyes would make the most pious woman in the world go jelly-kneed.
Sparks fly and the romantic allure of the island adds an edge to their sizzling hot attraction. But with Rayna trouble is never far away. When scandal comes calling she turns to Neel for help. Then the situation only gets more complicated. Their romantic journey is peppered with comedic twists and turns and some tears and sniffles before happily-ever-after. Doesn’t that remind you of a typical Indian wedding?
I hope you have as much fun reading Rayna and Neel’s story as I did writing it!
discovered Mills & Boon
romances and their amazing assortment of drool-worthy TDH heroes in her teens. At around the same time she fell in love with song-and-dance Bollywood romances. Growing up in a home with a filmmaker dad who worked in the world’s largest movie industry (yes, Bollywood!), and a voracious reader for a mum, it was inevitable that she would come to love both films
During her exciting and fulfilling fifteen-year career as a business journalist she always found the time to indulge her passion for both Bollywood and Mills & Boon. But after years of reporting and writing about the real world she chose to return to her love for fiction and turned screenwriter. When she penned her first romantic short story she won the 2012 Passions Aspiring Authors Contest.
Living in Greater Noida, near New Delhi, with her writer husband, her mother and the most adorable Irish Setter, she can’t think of anything more fun than creating feisty heroines and
-hot heroes and plotting their happily-ever-after stories. She dreams that some day one of her romance novels will be made into a Bollywood film, complete with song, dance and all that jazz!
She would be delighted to hear from her readers at her website:
For my father, who loved to tell stories.
Miss you, Bapi.
popped into Rayna’s head the moment she opened her eyes, shot her long shapely legs out of the sheet covering them and rolled out of bed. Only to have her staggering right back onto the soft mattress as her world spun out of control for a brief second. Her head pounded as if a brass band had embedded itself inside her skull and was banging out a raucous beat on tinny drums.
She reached for the bottle of water next to her bed and took a long swig from it before casting a look around her usually spotlessly clean bedroom. It was a monumental mess. Her clothes were lying all over the place and the culprit for her Godzilla-sized headache was right there on the bedside table—a bottle of tequila. She, who was notorious for passing out even if she so much as inhaled champagne, had needed just a couple of shots before she’d switched off like a fused bulb. She should thank her lucky stars the bottle had been less than a quarter full when Sid had left it behind last week.
Sid. The very name made her head pound harder. Sid Verma, the Dumper.
Rayna Dutt, the Dumpee! Dumped, Drunk…
Bang. Bang. Bang.
This time the drumbeat seemed
to come from a different direction. And it was accompanied by a hysterical, piercing wail. ‘Madam, please!
Aapka flight miss ho jayega
…and soon to be Dead!
Leaping out of the bed, Rayna dashed for the door of her hanky-sized apartment—or one BHK as it was referred to in rent-speak in the great metropolis of Mumbai. She still couldn’t believe she’d snagged this cosy little bedroom-hall-kitchen unit in an upmarket neighbourhood. Best of all, it had a balcony with a view of the Arabian Sea to die for. And if it hadn’t been for Sid the Dumper’s high-flying contacts in the city, this would have been way beyond her reach.
The brass knocker went
and she winced as the noise reverberated painfully inside her head. She undid the safety latch as she yelled out, ‘Hang on for a second, will you?’
A short, thin fellow with bug eyes and a huge handlebar moustache which shrouded his emaciated face stood staring at her as if she was a ghostly apparition.
‘Madam, your mobile is switched off. You will miss the flight,’ he squeaked.
Zombie-like, she shook her head, and even that tiny movement made her head hurt. ‘Oh, no!’ How could she have forgotten? Today was D-day. The twenty-first of April, the day she had been planning for, for more than six weeks. The chartered flight to the Andaman Islands, where Milee’s week-long wedding celebrations were being held, was scheduled to take off at 10:15 a.m. Her eyes darted to the wall clock and she nearly died of shock. Nine-forty-three!
‘Milee will kill me,’ she screeched at the confused man before banging the door shut on his face.
A second later, she yanked it open again. Handlebar Moustache, who had been deputed to ferry her to the airport, looked as if he was about to have a coronary.
She stuttered, ‘Sorry, sorry,
Wait for me downstairs. I will be with you in two minutes. And, please, could you take my suitcases?’ She waved in the general direction of the luggage she had so meticulously packed. There were four large cases—three of them contained Milee’s trousseau, while one had her own stuff.
Oh, dear… If she missed the flight and those suitcases weren’t on board, Milee’s big fat Indian wedding was doomed. Whoever had heard of a bride at a luxury boutique resort minus her bridal finery? She had painstakingly coordinated every little detail with two top fashion designers in the city. She wanted her best friend’s trousseau to be beyond perfect but it seemed like her hard work was about to go down the tubes.
She raced to the bathroom and speed-showered, throwing on the first skirt and blouse ensemble she could lay her hands on. It was a good thing she had her standby make-up kit ready for just such an emergency situation. Stuffing it in her large handbag, she grabbed her dead-as-a-dodo mobile phone and charger from the table top, lunged for the house keys and shot out of the apartment.
As she emerged from the building lobby, she looked for the familiar yellow and black taxi but there was none. She heard a honk behind her and spun around to find Handlebar Moustache behind the wheel of a gleaming black Mercedes-Benz. Well, at least she needn’t worry about the taxi breaking down en route to the airport. In the Rayna Book of Immutable Laws—also
known as RBIL—anything that could go wrong usually did!
She piled into the car and impatiently instructed, ‘
Hurry. Let’s go.’
The Mercedes soundlessly swept out of the driveway and raced down the road skirting the seafront on its way to the airport. Rayna looked out anxiously, praying they would not get stuck in a traffic jam. Thankfully, being a Sunday morning, the streets were devoid of the usual weekday bumper-to-bumper traffic. If all went well—fingers firmly crossed—they should cover the distance to the airport in twelve minutes, tops. She glanced at her wrist and realised she’d forgotten to strap on her watch.
Her eyes strayed to her feet and she froze in horror.
She was still wearing her flip-flops with the cute fluffy pink teddy bears on them.
RBIL #1 had kicked in: Footwear gaffe equals a disastrous day ahead.
Not only would she arrive late for a flight transporting some of the
of the city to the grandest wedding of the decade, but she was also set to make a cringe-worthy entrance. She hoped there would be no press photographers around to shoot hotshot model Rayna Dutt boarding a chartered flight to the Andaman Islands in pink teddy-bear-topped flip-flops. Maybe she should just hop off, hail a cab, go home and fall unconscious with the help of some more tequila shots? What if Handlebar Moustache delivered the trousseau suitcases to the aircraft?
No matter how tempting the thought, she knew she would never be able to do it. She couldn’t ditch Milee, the only true friend she’d ever had. The one who had stood by her through thick and thin back in the days
when she was a scared, scrawny kid with a bunch of emotional issues that should have made her the perfect candidate for non-stop therapy.
Flip-flops and paparazzi be damned; she would put her haughtiest foot forward. First, she needed her armour on. She pulled out her compact mirror from her handbag and set about doing up her honey-coloured, almond-shaped eyes. On any other day, they were easily her most attractive feature but today they were red-rimmed and blotchy from the torrent of tears that had come before the tequila had finally knocked her out. Sid had dumped her but, if she’d anything to do with it, it would be the best kept secret in the world. She would make a grand entrance…flip-flops and all!
Neel Arora was hanging on to his temper by a hair’s breadth. He paced the tarmac as he stopped himself from dialling the hapless driver yet again and checking on his whereabouts. The specially chartered flight was scheduled to depart at ten-fifteen and the VIP guests had checked in, including an entrepreneur who was currently the toast of Wall Street, the country’s top media mogul and his fashionista daughter, the husband-and-wife owners of one of the largest vineyards in Australia, a wildlife photographer whose documentaries had won a clutch of international awards, a couple of politician hotshots and a celebrity photographer. Except for one. The bride’s best friend, Rayna Dutt! If they didn’t take off in another eight minutes they would have to cancel. Not an option—coordinating the flight schedule with the invitees had been a nightmare for his staff and, besides, Port Blair Airport closed for traffic at 2:00 p.m.
every day. Too bad if Ms Dutt didn’t have the decency to show up on time! She’d just have to miss the flight.
He raked his hands impatiently through his thick jet-black hair. This whole wedding celebration gig had seemed like a bad idea right from the get-go. What did he, a hotelier, know about ferrying celebrities to a wedding that was being touted as the event of the year? Unfortunately for him, the venue of the said event was his very first boutique resort project. It made perfect business sense to have some of the country’s rich and famous staying at his hotel, located on the pristine white sands of the Andaman Islands. Though on a personal level the idea left him cold—he was not into weddings, especially the over the top, ostentatious Indian kind. Besides, how could he have said no to Chris Taylor, soon-to-be bridegroom, who was not just his business partner but also a dear friend?
A frantic air hostess rushed up to him. ‘Sir, the captain says we should be on our way now.’
It seemed like the bride’s best buddy would be a no-show after all and he couldn’t risk delaying the flight any longer. Nodding curtly at the stewardess, he strode briskly towards the aircraft and signalled to the pilot that they were ready to move. He jogged up the steps and turned around for one last look at the terminal.
The heat shimmered off the runway, though the light sea breeze made it somewhat bearable. Just as the air stairs were about to be pulled away, he spotted a woman in a short black skirt and blouse, sporting huge sunglasses, long dark tresses flying in the wind, tearing down the tarmac. She dragged two large suitcases behind her. Close on her heels, a short, thin man struggled with two equally bulky pieces of luggage. Neel waved
to the attendant to stop as he gritted his teeth and bit out, ‘Here she comes.’
The air hostess spoke urgently into her walkie-talkie and a couple of helpers rushed forward to take charge of the baggage and stack them in the hold of the aircraft. Neel turned to go inside as he saw the woman hurry up the steps.
Rayna struggled to catch her breath. She was relieved she had made it just in time. But before she could relax she felt a prickle of tension. As honey-brown eyes clashed with steel-grey ones hooded under dark eyebrows, a sliver of delicious sensation sliced through her. She stared at the rock-hard, chiselled jawline, aquiline nose, the lock of inky-black hair that skimmed a broad forehead and thin delectable lips which, right now, were curved in a sarcastic smile. A round of applause accompanied by jeers of ‘well done’ cut short her appraisal of the six-foot-plus hunk who looked far from pleased at her late arrival. Burning with embarrassment at the public mocking, she was grateful for the shelter her dark glasses provided.
Her self-preservation instinct kicked in and she slipped on her practised mask with ease. Flicking back her hair with her long fingers, whose tips were painted a fire-engine-red, she decided to brazen it out. She bent her knees in a brief curtsy, though her attitude screamed flirty and flippant rather than respectful.
‘Sorry to keep you all waiting,’ she said, flashing her million-watt smile. ‘I’d love to blame the horrendous traffic but, the fact is, I got a little carried away last night and decided to start the wedding celebrations a few hours in advance and overslept.
Subsey pyaari saheli
ki shaadi hai…thoda toh partying banta hai, na?
’ Surely a girl couldn’t be blamed for partying through the night on the occasion of her best friend’s upcoming nuptials?
Her saucy remark got some laughs, smiles and a lusty
‘banta hai, banta hai!’
—from a passenger seated at the rear of the plane. Waving in acknowledgement to her unknown ally, she collapsed into the creamy soft seat just as a flashbulb went off in her face.
RBIL #2: Trust a photographer to be around at the most inconvenient moment.
Pushing her sunglasses firmly back on her nose, she peered up to find a man in a canary-yellow shirt waving a camera at her, a supercilious smirk plastered on his ugly face. It was none other than the obnoxious photographer who freelanced for gossip rags, and with whom she’d already had a couple of nasty run-ins. ‘That was
cute, Ms Dutt. Goes with the cutesy footwear too.’
His eyes travelled down to her pink flip-flops and she struggled not to give in to her instinct of hiding her long legs under the seat. Instead, she thrust them forward and wiggled her toes. ‘Don’t you love the teddy bears? If you promise to behave, I swear I’ll give them to you, even though it will break my heart. They would go well with your yellow shirt and pink pants.’
Before he could think up a comeback to her smart-alecky comment, the stewardess firmly but politely steered him away to his seat as the aircraft prepared for take-off.
Heaving a sigh, Rayna pulled off the sunglasses and closed her eyes. She cursed her luck—of all the press photographers in Mumbai, why did Milee’s wedding
planner have to invite the sleaziest among them to cover the event? Now, she just had to make sure he remained clueless about her break-up with Sid, otherwise this wedding would be unbearable for her!
How had things come to such a pass? she wondered for the hundredth time during the past five days—ever since she’d acquired her Dumpee status.
She had met Sid on a commercial shoot less than a year ago and they had really hit it off. He had been more than helpful, recommending her to his contacts and sending modelling assignments her way. Soon their professional and private lives had begun to collide and she would often bump into him socially. It had been fun hanging out with him and their gang of friends but when Sid had then flaunted their ‘couple’ status on Facebook it had come as a shock.
Their relationship had grown more intimate than she had initially intended. Her protests about his online declaration had met with resentful accusations that she wasn’t taking their relationship as seriously as he was. Naively, she had actually believed that perhaps this was his way of committing to her and she had been willing to give him a chance. Thank God, she hadn’t completely lost her sanity and given in to his pressure to move in with him. Or else today, as well as being dumped, she would also be homeless.
Like she had found herself at the age of thirteen—when a sudden catastrophic event had snatched away everything she’d taken for granted. The love of her parents, the safety of a home, the belief that she would be untouched by sorrow. She squeezed her eyes shut, willing away the claustrophobia threatening to swamp her. Her head throbbed with tension. She felt someone sink
into the seat next to her and instinctively welcomed the diversion from her morbid thoughts.