“You walked into my life like you had always lived there, like my heart was a home built just for you.” ~ A. R. Asher
Juggling a bundle of newspapers in one hand, along with a couple of bags filled with breakfast pastries, bagels, and fruit in the other, he pulled out the keys from his fleece jacket, then slowly unlocked the door. Lifting his right foot slightly, he carefully nudged it open and quietly stepped inside the loft.
Golden threads of the morning light pouring in from beyond the front sitting area adjacent to the kitchenette kissed the left side of his face, yet his eyes flicked towards the darkness to the right of him. He had expected to find Khushi in the same spot he had left her, gloriously naked fast asleep snuggled underneath the covers in bed, but that wasn’t the scene that welcomed him.
“Where’d you go, Arnav?”
Out came a sexy drawl rusty with sleep from behind him that instantly brought a smile to his face. But then that was a given whenever she was nearby. His entire being smiled.
He turned to find her standing near the espresso machine in desperate need of her morning dose of caffeine, dressed in nothing but one of his old t-shirts that she had now claimed as hers among other clothing pieces of his that now resided in her closet. He bit the corner of his lip, letting out a groan of approval seeing her exposed silky legs.
In a rush to greet her, he went about freeing his hands, placing everything he had bought on the counter, then slipped out of his jacket, hanging it over the bar stool. He was in front of her in a matter of seconds, just as the freshly brewed coffee began to fill the mug she had set on the tray.
“Good morning, my sleeping beauty.” He leaned in closer, and kissed her hard.
She let out a moan, her body stiffening when he snuck his cold hands, coming from the chilly fall weather outside, inside her t-shirt then rested them on her bare waist. He was certain she would push him away, but instead, she ignored everything, even her coffee which was a first for Khushi, burying herself in his arms.
“Good morning, my love.” She whispered, placing a kiss on top of his heart. “I don’t like waking up to an empty bed. It was cold like your hands.”
He laughed, feeling the small pout in her voice as she pressed her head against his chest. He pulled his hands out from under the t-shirt, then wrapped her tightly in his arms.
“You had mentioned last night that you wanted fresh bagels with veggie cream cheese and fruit for breakfast, so I thought I would make a quick run to your favorite cafe. I even picked up some of the pastries you like from there. I figured I would be back before you woke up, but…” Noticing the time on the microwave, he asked. “It’s not even eight o’clock yet, why are you awake? You didn’t come to bed till almost four o’clock.” He ran his fingers through her hair, feeling her tiredness seeping from her bones as he continued to hold her.
“With the success of the opening on Friday night, and the images being sold out, I need to replace them with new ones before we ship out the sold pieces. Leia’s put in a rush order and they’ve said that as long as they have the selection first thing this morning, we can get them by tomorrow. It’s why I had no choice but to work last night…”
“That too on a Saturday night.” He rolled his eyes as she looked up at him.
“Is my boyfriend feeling neglected even after our steamy passion-filled back to back nights? Not just Friday after the opening, but last night as well.” She brazenly slid her hands inside the back of his worn black sweatpants and his boxer brief then squeezed his behind.
“It’s all a ploy, actually, kryptonite would be a better term. Satiate me with the power of sex then sneak off to work once I fall asleep.”
“And, you love every bit of it.”
He lowered his lips an inch from her cheek, “I most certainly do,” He murmured against her temple, brushing a tender kiss. “Though I’m not a fan of you working well into the early morning. You’ve barely slept this week, Sweetheart.”
She closed her eyes as he ran his finger underneath her hazel orbs, seeing the puffiness from exhaustion having caught up with working nonstop. She hadn’t taken a moment out for herself with getting Shutter ready for the opening night, followed by the general opening to the public the next day. Then there was an event downstairs later this morning with a few of her peers that were here from out of town. It was one of the reasons why he had stayed over at the loft since opening night to be there for her if and when she needed him.
“After the demo class that I am hosting at the lab at eleven o’clock, I am free, and all yours.” She smiled apologetically, “I know this isn’t our typical Sunday morning together with me needing to get things rolled out, but I’ll make it up this evening, I promise.”
“I completely understand, and I’m here at your beck and call. As for this evening, I’ve made plans for us, and it’s going to be the perfect closing to this magnificent week.”
Seeing her raise her eyebrow, he pulled away before she grilled him for details. For now, he had no intentions of disclosing what he had in mind.
“You get the coffee, and I’ll toast the bagels.” He said, getting to work on his task as did she for the next few minutes.
“What’s all this?” She gestured at the pile, moving her eyes as she counted them. “I know your ritual of reading the Sunday New York Times, but you’ve bought at least ten copies.”
Recalling the main reason he had rushed out this morning, he grabbed the paper from the top and moved the others aside to make room for them to have their breakfast at the small kitchen island.
“For keepsakes,” Seeing confusion mar her face, he elaborated, “Your feature in the Times, remember?”
She gave him a slight nod and a small smile, as she spread the veggie cream cheese on both of their toasted bagels.
“I would have picked up more, but this was all I could carry since I had walked to the cafe and newsstand down the street. Actually, I’ll go out and do that later when you’re at Shutter,” He told himself, then smiled widely, placing his hand on the front page.
Of course, Khushi had forgotten what with everything going on, about the exclusive interview and the walkthrough at Shutter on Friday night with the art critic from the Times. She sat down on the stool with her mug in her hands, as he flipped through the sections till he found the one he was looking for.
“Here we go, the Art section,” He laid the section flat on the counter in between them. There was no need for him to open it, seeing the headline and photo of Khushi. “Wow, this is amazing! My KKG made it to the front page of the Times,” He announced proudly, adorning a bright smile as he glanced from the paper to her.
“Technically it’s not the front page of the Times.” She clarified, placing her finger on the word, Art. But as her eyes fell on the featured article, along with a few photos above it, she couldn’t hold back her surprise. “That’s quite the spread.”
“Would you like to read it first?” He offered, but she shook her head, slightly embarrassed to read what was written about her. He noticed the uncertainty in her eyes, along with a hint of nervousness with her fidgeting with the fork over the fruit on her plate. Placing his hand on top of hers, he took the fork from her hand, “There possibly can’t be anything bad they would have to write about. The opening, Shutter, and you, Khushi Kumari Gupta, are a lethal, mind blowing combo that has won over many hearts in the city with your talent. Friday night was a huge success, trust me. Read it, and see for yourself.”
She sighed, rubbing her hand at the back of her neck, “I still can’t, would you please do the honors, and read it to me?”
“It would be my pleasure.” He kissed her as she learned against his shoulders, sliding her arm inside his.
He happily made himself comfortable with the paper in his hand, and began to read the featured article.
After reading the last word, he folded the paper in half, then placed it on the counter. Following their Sunday ritual once he had had his fill with the Times, he pulled Khushi into his lap.
“You’re awe-inspiring, and you’re mine. I speak on behalf of my family as well as yours, we’re so damn proud of what you’ve accomplished. And, I look forward to seeing you in the Times over and over again.” He placed a kiss on the side of her neck, then moved higher, his lips firmly pressed against the sensitive space beneath her ear. His teeth gently tugged her earlobe. “I can’t wait for this evening to have you to myself.”
She let her head fall down to his shoulder. “Why wait when you can have me now? There’s still plenty of time before I have to go down to Shutter.”
The air thickened with desire, and he obliged, capturing her lips and her as they moved from the kitchenette to the bed discarding their clothes along the way. There was no depriving her or himself as they came together as one.
When they walked out of Khushi’s building for the evening, it was nearing five o’clock. Being that it was the end of October, they felt the change of season as a cool crisp air danced around them. Even the sun was intent on tucking in earlier than usual to make way for nightfall to blanket the bright sky.
Laughter rumbled inside of him as he glanced up at the sky, hell-bent on racing against the sun before it was ready to set. One might think he was crazy, and maybe he was, but he was determined that the sun followed his schedule based on what he had planned. All he needed was an hour, and he was confident that he would come out victorious.
“Deny it all you want, but you’re up to something. The question is, what?”
Khushi’s voice broke his train of thought. As he turned to face her, she was staring intently at him. Buoyant at having succeeded in holding in a secret for the past couple of days, he gestured to his parked car for her to proceed, falling into step beside her. His hand rested on the small of her back, stopping in front of his car.
“How about you allow that beautiful brain to rest after having worked it overtime this past week.” He opened the door, motioning her to get inside.
But, he should have known better with Khushi doing as she pleased, continuing to speak standing in front of the open door, “The nap you insisted I take after the demo class has done wonders. All of me, body and soul, feels rejuvenated. Just in time for whatever you have in mind for tonight.”
“Not sure what you are referring to, remember we’re only going out to dinner per your request.”
“Somewhere fancy, seeing how we’re dressed.”
There was nothing special with how he was dressed in his usual formal wardrobe, a custom tailored navy blue suit with a white shirt and light blue patterned tie. But Khushi had pulled out the works, perhaps he had something to do with picking out the knee length dark grey dress with capped sleeves. Though she completed the ensemble with a thick belt wrapped around her slim waist, along with some elegant accessories; a strand of pearls around her neck with matching earrings, and gold and diamond bangles around her wrist.
“You look stunning tonight, and I plan on showing you off at that posh restaurant my bestie recommended.”
“Don’t you find it weird that your girlfriend’s father is telling you where to take her out on a date.”
They both stared at each other for a moment, before bursting out laughing. She was right, it wasn’t normal whatsoever. But then, all NK had done was merely recommend the restaurant to both Khushi and him.
“Now get inside, we need to make a stop before heading out for dinner. Something important has come up, and I need to drop in on a listing for Aseem.”
He was expecting her to whip out a series of questions, but she didn’t say a word as they made their way to the listing. With him weaving through traffic, and being in sync with the traffic lights, they were in the charming and historic Rose Hill neighborhood of NoMad in eight minutes.
He pulled the car to a stop in front of one of the newest iconic residential buildings in the area. The fifty storey tower with chevron detailing and distinctive ornamental external bronze cladding was an artistic vision. The striking design not only emphasized the modern essence of New York City but it also paid tribute to the historical nature of the neighborhood. One couldn’t help but pause and take in the details from the confines of the car.
“Isn’t she a beauty? A true quintessentially New York building with an attitude.” He noted after they got out of the car, with Khushi unable to take her eyes off of the building.
“No one could tell this building is new to the skyline, it’s as if it’s been here all along. There’s a charm to it that not many buildings have.”
On the inside there were panelled walls, and rich metal accents with a geometric black and white tile floor that was reminiscent of the art deco architecture of the Rockefeller Center.
Seeing that ARG was in charge of the luxury units in the building, Arnav was able to walk past security with a mere wave as Khushi and he walked hand in hand towards the elevator bank.
“Looks like there are two kings in the concrete jungle.” She pecked his cheek once they were inside the elevator.
After a quick scan with the key card, they were whisked up to the sky to the main penthouse at the top.
“Can there be two kings?” He asked, not holding back his amusement as his lips curved upwards.
“Why not, anything I say goes.” She winked as the elevator halted.
As they stepped out of the private elevator into the entry foyer, she let out a soft gasp seeing it open into an extraordinary grand enfilade-like gallery.
“Do you like it?” He might have asked what appeared to be a simple question to most, but she saw right through him. “Promise me, Khushi, you’ll keep an open mind while we walk through the penthouse.”
There was no hesitation on her part, she nodded, and squeezed his hand. After all she had promised him earlier in the morning that she would make up having been preoccupied with the gallery. This was about them, and she would allow herself to take it all in.
“Are we alone? Aseem?” She asked, while looking ahead at the long hall ahead of them.
He shrugged, “Yes, it’s just us. What I said about meeting Aseem here for an urgent matter, was an excuse to get you here without going through an inquisition. But, I wasn’t lying about this being ARG’s listing, in fact all of the open units are listed under us.”
She blinked in understanding, then glanced around.
“And, we’re still going out to dinner afterwards to celebrate,” He paused, “Not only the success of your gallery, but also what I hope is the next chapter for us.” Letting out a deep breath, he let go of her hand, and switched on his business avatar like the few times he had shown her a property. “This penthouse is the only unit on the floor. It consists of two-storeys with four bedrooms, four bathrooms. The master suite, along with a junior suite and a study is on the top level, with two other bedrooms, and a library that could be converted into another office space downstairs.”
She followed him through the long wide hall leading to a reception room adjacent to the living room. It was there that the architectural beauty could truly be appreciated up close from a soaring perspective from where they stood surrounded by floor to ceiling glass windows.
From all of the places he had shown her, this was unique. There was warmth, and attention to detail with craftsmanship in the home, while having state of the art features with a top of the line kitchen and various tech features around the home. Qualities one found in older buildings but were so often glaringly absent from contemporary architecture.
He noticed she was quiet through the procession of the entire space. Her expression gave nothing away, but then he hadn’t offered much either. They silently went through the tour with their thoughts staying locked inside of them.
He had already seen the penthouse a couple of days ago, and knew it was the one the moment he had seen it with Aseem. But as he led her out to the final spot, the terrace, he wondered if she felt the same.
That was all she needed to say to bring a smile on his face. He had his answer with just one word from her as she gazed at the brilliant white patch at the edge of the cloud ready to catch the sun. The greyish tone with a subtle hint of pink and purple, was enough to announce the coming sunset.
He had done it, arriving at the top beating the sunset before his time was up. The magnificent view standing amidst the sky was supposed to seal the deal. Now, if only Khushi would agree to move in with him before darkness fell upon them.
“You get a view from every angle, even from inside. It’s as if you’re inviting the skyline into your home.” She spoke softly, absorbing the vista around them, then turned to him. He knew what she was going to ask him, before her words were out. “What were you thinking of doing with this place?”
Taking her hand, he led her to the outdoor sofa facing out to the skyline. They sat down as evening cast upon them with the sun slowly dipping lower into the horizon.
“Making it a home, our home.”
“Did you already purchase it?”
“Always direct to the point,” He laughed, as she sat back making herself comfortable after sliding off her heels. “I was tempted to buy it when I came here on Thursday, but seeing how independent my girlfriend is, thought I would wait till you said yes.”
“And, if I said no.”
“Depends, whether you’re saying no to the property or me.” He paused, seeing if she would say anything. “Say no to the listing, and we can find another. Say no to living with me, then I guess I will wait till you’re ready.”
“Is it that easy a decision for you, Arnav?”
“Yes, yes it is. I’m not going to force you to live here if you don’t like it. Though you have to admit, this penthouse is a perfect place to call home. It has everything you were looking for and more. You’ve been saying it yourself, the past few weeks about moving out of the loft. And with what you’re planning once you buy the building, it’s time to take that leap moving out of that cramped space.”
“Can’t disagree with that, but what about you? Do you see yourself living here or is this mainly tied to me having to move? A forced, logical step forward.”
“I do, and I want this for you and me. Walking in here on Thursday, it was love at first sight, and all I could picture was you and me living here for a long time to come.” He looked inside with the French doors open, and she followed his gaze. “If you’re hesitating with wanting to move in together, I would understand that you might still need time.”
“Would you really?”
He stood in response to her question, suddenly feeling cold with the wind picking up. As he looked at her, it dawned on him that she was without her coat.
“Let’s go in, it’s getting cold out here.” He extended his hand to her, and she took it, as they went inside.
He could see it in her eyes that she was falling in love with the penthouse just as he had. It was hard not to.
“Do you really not want to move in together?” It was his turn to ask her directly, which earned him a bright smile. One that made his heart pick up its pace, ready to give it his all to make her agree.
“There’s only one person, you and only you, that makes me want to come home to. And, I want to be living under one roof, preferably this one,” He gestured to the high ceiling, “Sleeping in the same bed every night,’ He pointed at the staircase leading up to the master suite, “I want my day to start with you and end with you,” He pulled out a folded piece of paper, and got down on his knee. “Khushi Kumari Gupta, would you sign this contract with me to make this our home… move in with me.”
“Under one condition,” There was an unmistakable glint of tears in her eyes at having already made her decision long ago, as she wrapped her hands around his, holding a part of the contract. “We go into this together as true equals.”
“Of course we’re in this together, it would be our home.”
“I would like to pay for my share.” She clarified for him.
“KKG, you really know how to ruin a romantic moment. I can afford this place.”
“I know you can, but this is important to me, please say yes, Arnav.”
He knew better than to fight her on it, aware of what it meant to her. As much as he wanted to take care of her, provide for her, she wanted to do the same. In the end, they would be there for each other through whatever may come their way.
“Yes, I say yes to us, Khushi.”
“Then, I’m all in with you, Arnav.”
A wide grin spread across his face, getting up to his feet in an instant. She squealed when he lifted her without any warning then twirled her around. As he put her back down, he framed her face with his hands.
“You’ve made me the happiest man in the world. I love you.”
He went beyond his spoken words, and showed her how much, locking his lips with hers. The kiss started out tender, before it grew hotter as he hauled her into his body.
She responded with a contented sigh, raking her fingers in his hair.
When they finally pulled away, the glitter in her eyes reflected his own. The amount of joy their decision had brought was beyond anything, and it was with their emotions running high that they walked through the home again with fresh new eyes and plans for the future.
“Do the furniture and the fixtures stay?” She asked him while they waited to hear back on the offer they had put in through Aseem who was representing them with both Khushi and his name on the paperwork. When it came to real estate transactions, it was a seven-day business with rounds of negotiations to get the buyer and seller the best price. They were in it as was the seller to get the sale secured tonight.
“We can keep whatever you like, I know the staging company that did the interior.”
“I would love to, given how everything is paired so well. The color palette, and style fits really well together. And, it means we can move right in.” She winked, poking her head inside the master bedroom. But seeing the room right across from it, she giggled awkwardly, leaning against the doorway, “Though, I’m not sure about a baby nursery, a little too soon?”
He slid his phone inside his pocket, feeling her eyes on him. He came to stand beside her at the doorway, then looked inside the room. While they had never spoken about children, they both shared the same view. Seeing her go quiet staring at the crib, he pulled her up against him, and tipped her chin up with his hand, forcing her to look into his eyes.
“I think so, but I do see us having a family in this home when we’re ready.”
She stretched up on her toes, and kissed his cheek.
“Speaking of family, we should probably talk to ours about this latest development.”
They would need to do it soon, and while he didn’t expect any objections from his family, NK’s reaction could be different. Especially since NK wasn’t aware of their decision to not marry.
Would that create problems between them?
He hoped not.
A special shout out to Ruchi for indulging me in writing the newspaper article for Shutter by KKG. Who better than her to critique KKG’s special night?! I’ve waited for this for quite some time, and I have to say she nailed it! Thank you, my love! ❤
Also the image of the leopard from the article titled, “Mine” was taken by my talented Ruchi during her trip to Africa, isn’t it amazing?! ❤
Hope all of you have enjoyed this timely update, I know I did writing it 😉
Till next week, keep smiling, I know I am!
To quote Amanda Gorman, “There is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it; if only we’re brave enough to be it.” Such powerful words by this talented young poet that have restored hope to many in the country I call home.
As always, thank you!
Loads of love,