It’s been a very long day. I started my day today praying to Allah to give me the courage to help me start this new life. I was thinking of how life was so unfair to me.
Maybe everything happens for a reason. Maybe I had to go through all that shit to get here. I got a job, place to stay. I can’t complain. I am grateful. I put all my effort in that interview and for the “luck” part, I left it to my faith in Allah.
I get showered and change into my Pyjamas. I turn towards Qibla and put my prayer mat to offer my Salah (prayers).
Once I am done, I fold my prayer mat. I feel like I am forgetting something important. I have been more forgetful and absent minded since last few days. Pooja says that’s because I am pregnant. I just can’t seem to remember what I am forgetting now.
That’s when I hear the explosion in the kitchen. I rush inside kitchen just to see the pressure cooker have exploded and the daal I was cooking is all over the wall and the roof of the kitchen.
The daal from the roof drips and falls on my arm, burning my skin. As if this was not enough, I hear someone banging the door like a raving lunatic, before bursting it out of its hinges.
“Sana?” I hear a voice that I’m getting very familiar with.
“SANA?” I could sense his fear.
“I am in here.” I shout back.
As I say, I go over to the sink to pour water on my arm. I don’t have to check refrigerator to know that it’s broken and needs fixing. So no cold compress to soothe the pain.
The moment I turn around, the first thing I noticed were those forest green orbs filled with terror. He rushes towards me and pulls me into a hug. Isn’t it weird for a boss to care so much about an employee? I don’t know and I didn’t care at the moment. I felt safe in his presence. First time in my life, I was in embrace with the man who was not at all related to me. I needed to keep myself in check. The close proximity with Val was causing me to panic and my heart was in a frenzy state. My first instinct was to flee. I needed to remind myself that Baba isn’t here and I hoped to Allah that my family wouldn’t come after me.
He was bare from the waist up and I can see all those tattoos. His heart was racing, matching with mine.
I wince when his hand touched mine. He pulls away, still looking at me and then his eyes travels down to my injured arm.
“You’re hurt. We need to go to ER.”
“No. I am alright. It’s nothing a little cool water, cold compressor, petroleum jelly and sterile bandages wouldn’t fix.”
He turns and walk towards refrigerator.
“It’s broken. But that’s not me. It was already broken when I moved in.” I didn’t know why I needed to make that clear to him. Although, deep down I had a feeling that he didn’t care about it, I was terrified of how he would react. I didn’t know any men who didn’t lose their temper for silly things, except for Atif Bhai, Steven and Matt.
He walks back to me and pulls my other hand, taking me downstairs. Allah. He is going to fire me because of the mess. Isn’t he? I feel tears starting to well up in my eyes. I don’t want to cry in front of him.
He stops and abruptly turns around to face me when he nears his kitchen and I bump into his broad chest, inhaling into his fresh woodsy scent.
“Are you going to fire me?” I ask although I am terrified of his answer.
“What? No! Jesus. Why’d you think that I will fire you?”
“Well. I... I ruined your kitchen. It’s a total mess.”
The tears starts to flow from my eyes now and no matter how hard I try, I am unable to stop them. I blame pregnancy hormones. He takes my face in his palms, wiping away tears gently with his thumb.
“Hey. It’s okay sweetheart”.
He moves around the kitchen to get the first aid kit and the cold compressor from fridge and guide me to the living room.
He place the cool compress on my burnt arm for few minutes. Then he starts to apply the ointment and wrap the burnt area with a sterile gauze. He looks up at me and I notice a big frown on his handsome face and those beautiful green orbs are filled with worry. My uninjured hand instinctively reach out to smoothen his frown.
I feel his warm breath against my fingers. My fingers have the mind of their own as they slowly make their way on his cheek and then stops at his chiselled jaw. He closes his eyes.
“What are you doing?” He opens his eyes, squinting up at me. It sounds like a low growl.
“Sorry. I was just….” I don’t know what to say. What was I doing? I don’t know why I did that in a first place.
“Don’t stop, Baby.” His voice comes out as a whisper. My brain keeps saying this is highly inappropriate but my heart want to oblige Val. My heart wants to feel him close to me.
With great difficulty, I finally break our eye contact.
I try to twist away, but he holds onto my uninjured arm. Nobody has ever looked at me the way he does. He makes me feel like I am the most beautiful woman in the world.
“I am going to kiss you now.” He whispers.
I meet his gaze, then watched as his eyes slowly flicker from my eyes down to my lips, then back up again.
He leaned in close until our noses were touching. I try to calm my racing heart, but it was pointless.
Finally, his lips lightly brushed against mine. At first, the kiss was slow. As he deepened the kiss, I found myself unable to resist.
I gently run my fingers through his thick beautiful hair, while he rests both his hands on either side of my face.
I shouldn’t be doing this; I shouldn’t be kissing him. But every movement of my body went against what my mind was telling me to do, as I refused to break the kiss. Refused to even pause for the breath, until we were entirely breathless.
He finally pulls away, to look into my eyes. My head is still fuzzy and my thoughts are unclear, scattered all over the place. I don’t remember what we were doing on this couch. As I am about to move away, I flinch in pain and remember my injured arm.
“I… need to go. I.. Kitchen. Need cleaning.” So stupid of you, Sana. Frame proper sentences, screams my mind.
He just smiles at me. He had such a beautiful smile, beautiful enough to break an angel’s heart. “The cleaning crew will be here tomorrow. They’ll do the work”. I am about to protest when he places his finger on my lips, silencing me.
“You’re in no condition to clean that up, Sana. No arguments.” I just nod at him. I am too tired to argue. There’s this awkward silence between us that we don’t know how to fill. Besides, he still hadn’t moved his finger off my lips.
“I noticed some old scars on your arm. Maybe a month old? Who did that to you?”
I stiffen at his question, everything else blurred and forgotten. I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to think about it. He was right. The scars on my arms were from last month. My last night in India. I am not ready to talk to anyone about it yet. I didn’t even give all details to Pooja.
He probably noticed that I am not comfortable answering what he wants to know.
“Hey. Sweetheart. It’s alright. You can talk about it when you are ready. I won’t force you.” He says as he graze his hand along my cheek. I am so relieved to hear him say that. I just nod back at him. Why was I having these strong sensations when he is close to me?
“So what were you cooking that the entire kitchen is enjoying now?” He asks playfully, giving me a cheeky grin. He was probably trying to lighten the mood in this tensed atmosphere.
“………” I mutter, unsure if he heard me.
“I don’t know how to cook.”
“Then why’d you try? What if something more dangerous had happened to you?” His tone had a dangerous edge to it, like he was trying to not unleash his anger towards me.
“I asked for a recipe with my friend while we were at grocery store in order to prepare daal.” At his questioning look, I continue to explain, “It’s lentil soup. I just forgot I had it cooking in the kitchen.”
“And how come you are wearing….” He signals to my hijab that I was wearing from the time I was offering prayer, which has now slid down from my head to my shoulder from that heated kiss.
“I was offering prayer.” I say as I try to hide my blush as I remember the kiss we shared few moments ago.
“So you haven’t had any food yet.” It wasn’t a question, but a mere statement.
“No. But I can have some chips. I bought lots of junk food.”
“So have I noticed.” He sounds amused, in a way that you would, while talking to a child. I should probably be getting mad at him for talking to me like I am a child. But I don’t feel mad at him. It’s been ages since someone actually spoke to me like they cared. His tone was soft and that’s all that mattered. I remember my brother, Atif and unshed tears sting my eyes and I turn away from Val, not wanting him to notice it. I didn’t want him thinking I am weak or a cry baby.
I am about to get up and go upstairs when he pulls me back in the couch.
“Sit here. Take rest. You can’t eat all that unhealthy food as dinner. I will cook something for you.” I keep my eyes down and thankfully by Allah’s grace, he doesn’t notice. He gets up from the couch, leaving me feeling empty from inside, same as the space next to me.
And that statement, it wasn’t a question or an offer. I’ve only known him for less than twenty-four hours and I never judge people based on what I hear about them, But I have to say, Valor Lennox was bossy and maybe a little obnoxious. He was maybe controlling, even.
“So shall I cook some steaks?” He asks, and I curse myself under my breathe. Maybe he is not obnoxious. I have never judged anyone before, I shouldn’t be starting it with my boss now.
“Umm.. Sorry. I can’t eat steaks.”
“May I know why?” he asks again.
“I don’t eat meat unless it is halal.” As I was about to explain him what halal is, he stops me right there.
“I have had few work colleagues who are Muslims and I know what halal is. The thing is, usually they don’t care about all that and stuff their face with burgers.”
“Well, It is a personal choice. I too had friends from same community back home who ate meat from outside.”
“But you don’t.”
“No. I don’t.” I respond back.
“What else do you follow in your religion?”
“I don’t eat pork.”
He seems curious so I continue. “We do one month fasting for Ramadan month.”
“The whole month?” Now he looks surprised.
“Are there any restrictions for seafood too? Or shall I prepare Shrimp pasta?” he asks. I notice he is very considerate. No one else cared about my opinion before.
“I love shrimp pasta.”
After we had food, he drops me upstairs to the left wing. He was reluctant to leave and I practically had to shove him away. Not that I would be to move a muscle in his body. He stood there like a handsome Greek god, all tall with broad shoulder, tattooed body.
“You make sure you don’t cook anything else or burn down my house.” I know he is joking. I can see his lips curl up in a beautiful smile.
“Okay, Val. Thank you.”
“I’ll get someone to fix the door tomorrow. Sleep well, beautiful.” With that, he walks away.
I wake up late in the morning. The minute I pull my phone, I see the time is already 10.00 am and we were supposed to go through some job details this morning at 11.00 am. I sprint out of my bed, carefully trying not to injure my arm and get showered and dressed into a white and gold-toned embroidered kurta with trousers, and white dupatta with laced borders.
I go downstairs to see that he’s already up and seated in his study. He’s wearing casual jeans and T-shirt. I can’t seem to tear my eyes off him. That dark blonde hair falls loose around his shoulder. And that kiss last night. I had kissed twice in the past. One was my college crush and the other was my so called “husband”. But honestly, no one had this effect on me.
He looks up at me and smile curves on his lips. “Are you gawking at me, sweetheart?” he asks, still smirking at me.
I blush furiously. It hadn’t went unnoticed that he keeps teasing me and giving me nick names and the way he looks at me.
I have to be professional. I need this job, more than anything. With all the secrets I have, he will probably end up hating me. I come with a lot of baggage and I don’t want to burden him with it. This was wrong. I cannot encourage this, whatever this was between us. I have to distance myself from Val before either one of us could get hurt. Besides, why on earth the man like him would ever want a someone like me?
Not that he ever told me that he was interested in me. It was probably just some harmless flirting. It may work for him, but I didn’t want to endanger my heart in all this. The last thing I want is another heartbreak.
“Good morning, Mr. Lennox.” He raise his eyebrow at me, probably at the mention of his last name.
“You make me feel too old.” He says as he places his hand on his heart as if he were hurt.
“Well, how old are you?” I blurt out and he looks surprised.
To make matters worse, I keep muttering to myself, “Stupid, stupid Sana.” He just giggles at my outburst. Probably hearing berating myself.
“Didn’t you look me up in google before applying for job?” he asks and I honestly have no clue why everyone kept asking me to do that. Even before my interview, Pooja kept saying me to look him up on internet and stay as far away from him as possible.
“Well?” he is still looking at me, waiting for my response.
“No, I haven’t. Are you supposed to someone very important?”
“I am thirty-two. And to answer your second question, I suggest you really check that out for yourself.”
“You are old.” I murmur again. And right away, I plaster both my hands to my mouth. Allah. Why are you testing me? Why can’t I keep my mouth shut? If I keep this up, at this rate, I am going to be fired soon.
“Did you have breakfast?” he asks as he looks up from his laptop.
“Y… Yes.” I lie as I avoid looking at him, my eyes all over the place. I cannot tell him I have a morning sickness and hate breakfast now. Can I?
“You are a very bad liar, Sana. Don’t lie again.” He says and I couldn’t fathom why he implied that I was lying, so confidently.
I go get seated myself opposite to him. The rest few hours go by when he asks me to make note of all his upcoming appointments and sync his calendar with mine.
He discuss few projects with me. Asking for my “young minded” opinion. We discuss few more things and I go through all documents that needs to be sent first thing on Monday morning.
“Well, that’s all for today. I was slammed with work yesterday and within few hours, we had it all arranged and everything is sorted.”
I smile at his praise. Growing up back home, I was not praised for my academic achievements. All they wanted was a girl to learn cooking and cleaning, which as you may know by now, I am not very good at. The only person supported my studies was my brother. I missed him.
“Thank you.” His voice pulls me back to the present.
“You don’t have to thank me as long as you pay me.” He chuckles.
“So what have you planned for rest of the day? We can have lunch together.”
“I am planning to go on shopping. I don’t have much formal wear as you may see.” I say pointing towards my attire.
“Would you like me to accompany you?” He sounds hopeful.
“No.” I said it too fast. He’s starting to look disappointed. So I add, “I… I am going with a friend.”
He fiddles with his wallet until he finds what he’s looking for. His credit card. He takes it out and pushes the card towards me.
“This should cover whatever you are buying.”
“Thank you, Mr. Lennox. But I cannot take your card.”
“Why not?” Now he seems irritated. He’s got to be kidding, right?
“Because I am buying my own clothes.”
“But it’s for the company purpose. You represent Lennox industries and you will be attending events and business meetings with me.” Now that was offensive.
“And you think that I cannot afford clothes according to your standards?” I ask him.
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Okay then. But I am still not using your credit card.”
Thankfully, he doesn’t push the matter further. “Fine. I will ask Maria to have you issued with a company credit.”
“That should be okay. Thank you.”
“Go to Violet’s boutique. She’s a good friend of mine and have nice collections there.” He says as I hear my phone chime with a text from him. “I’ve sent you the address”.
I get up from my chair and he follows the suit. I don’t want to have any eye contact with him. Eye contact between us leads to closeness that ended up in a kiss last night.
“Okay, see you later.” I say, trying to get away from him.
“Be safe.” He calls out and I couldn’t help but turn his way to look at him one last time.
On the way out, I call Pooja, but she was busy with her adorable son and her husband. However, Christina was free for some shopping. So I text Christina the address to meet up at Violet’s boutique.
I book taxi and in within thirty minutes, I reach the boutique.
For the last month I’ve been in New York, I have become close friends with Holts.
I step out of cab to see Christina already waiting for me.
“Hey, How is baby mama?” she asks as she envelops me into a bear hug.
“Hello to you too, Christina.” I smile at her. I have adored her since the day I met her. She was bold and fierce. And she did things she wanted to, unlike me.
“What the fuck happened to your arm?”
“Why the hell would you do that when you don’t know a shit about cooking?”
Same argument Val was having last night. I kinda miss him. Wait. Where did that come from? I barely know the man. Why was I missing him?
“So I heard you got job at being playboy’s assistant.”
“Playboy?” I ask her confusingly.
“Duh. Don’t you work for The mighty Valor Lennox?”
“Yeah, that’s my boss.”
We get inside the boutique while having conversation about Val. The lady in her mid-thirties greets us both. “Hello ladies, I am Violet Jennings. How can I help you both?”
“Hi. I am looking for some office attire.” I say nervously. This woman is gorgeous. She looked like one of those models walking on ramp. Maybe she was one of them.
“You must be the girl Val sent.” She smiles at me but the smile don’t reach her eyes. And I get this instant jealousy hit me when she refers to him as Val. It moreover sounded very endearing and in a way like she owned him. But I don’t let it get to me. I’ve mastered to stay calm my whole life. He wasn’t mine. Besides, whatever she and my boss did was none of my business.
So I smile at her and calmly say, “Yes, Mr. Lennox sent me.”
She shows me some attire and ask me to try it out. I am inside one of the trial rooms now when I hear Christina speak.
“So what, Christina?”
“What the fuck was that about? It looked like you wanted to punch that ‘fake boobs’ out there.”
“I don’t know what you mean.” I respond back from the trial room.
“Fine. Whatever. Don’t tell. But please answer this. Is he really a playboy like he is defined to be?”
“Where do you hear all that shit?”
“Honey, the entire country knows the billionaire Valor Lennox’s life style. He moves from one woman to another like a bee goes about collecting nectar.”
I peep from the trial room, looking at Christina.
“What you read in gossip magazines or what you hear need not be true.”
“Already defending him huh? Didn’t you just get a job yesterday?”
I was about to tell her that guy I ran into in India while running away from my father’s goons was none other than Val. Then I decide against it.
“It doesn’t matter. He is a nice person.”
She snorts at that and then responds by saying, “He told you that?”
“He didn’t need to.” Now I am getting annoyed. I really don’t like the way she’s bad mouthing him.
I come out of trial room deciding what dresses I want and we are about to turn towards the billing counter when I spot him. He’s wearing a big goofy smile. I wonder why. It may have something to do with ‘fake boobs’ out there. Why was I getting so jealous?
None of my business. None of my business. I chant to myself.
He looks up at me, coming forward in our direction.
I look at Christina and her mouth is hanging wide open. I reach out and close her mouth. I cannot stop as giggle slips my mouth at her reaction.
“Took you long enough.” Says Val, eyes still locked to mine.
“I… What are you doing here?” I finally ask, trying to get my voice back.
“I... I had a business close by. I thought I would drop by and save you taxi fare.”
Now I feel Christina pinching me. Probably because I missed out on the part where I am staying with my boss.
“Mr. Lennox. As you can see, I am out with a friend. You didn’t have to come here.”
He completely ignores me and introduces himself to Christina. And it doesn’t help that she’s drooling all over him.
“Hello. I am Valor Lennox.”
“H.. Hello.. I am Christina Holt.”
“It’s my pleasure to meet you, Ms. Holt.” She blushes a deep crimson. Okay. So he has this effect on everyone. Not just me.
“So, where you ladies off to next?” asks Val, addressing both Christina and myself.
“We can go out for some burgers. They make tastiest burgers around the corner.” Says Christina, excitedly.
“Sorry. But Sana doesn’t eat meat from outside.” Responds Val. Christina just looks shocked looking at me and I shrug off. Not many knew my food preferences. Staying with Holts, it took me couple of days to open up to them. The only person who knew my likes and dislikes was Pooja.
“Well then. I’ll leave you guys to it. I have a date.” Christina hugs me and leave from the boutique. I go to counter to pay the bill, with Val walking next to me. This is going to be difficult, to put space between us when he is trying to get close to me.