Title: No Escape from Love
Author: Reet Singh
Genre: Small-town, contemporary romance
Will the demons from their past succeed in tearing them apart? After personal tragedy strikes, Mohini Kapoor runs away from the city to her grandparents home in a village in Punjab. Though she manages to pick up the pieces of her broken self, and even builds a life for herself, the horror of her experience is difficult to forget. She buries it deep down inside her subconscious mind until the arrival of a stranger threatens to resurrect the old demons. Reputed photojournalist, Aalok Ahuja, has to hide out for a few days to escape circumstances beyond his control. When his friend recommends Tejopur, a remote village in Punjab, Aalok expects life to be simple there, and perhaps even boring - instead, his world is thrown into chaos by a woman more desirable and vastly more complicated than any he has ever known. When their destinies collide, attraction flares, but secrets threaten their new found feelings. Should they cut and run or give love a chance?
Aalok addressed himself to her back. 'Now, kind cat-lady, if you could just show me where I can clean up?'
'Certainly. Let me see ... why don't you come with me?' Mohini offered. The matter was of some urgency - not so much because the man was struggling to mop up with the minuscule cotton T-shirt, but because she needed him covered before the impressionable Bindro clapped eyes on him in all his shirtless glory.
'Yes, please!' The large man slung the tiny tee over a bare, bronzed shoulder and followed as she stepped off the paved path and straight into a grove of low trees.
She was going to offer him the East annexe. It was a spur of the moment decision, one that she had made seconds after she'd caught a glimpse of that muscular torso.
She could have easily put him up in the main house - in her late grandfather's room - the one that Mama and Papa used when they visited. Perhaps she would have if he hadn't taken off the tee!
It was silly to be prudish in this day and age, but she didn't know Aalok at all and couldn't imagine sharing her personal space with him - even with him covered from head to toe. Also, she couldn't forget the terror she'd felt in his arms earlier.
Her head spun from the circus of emotions that she'd come to associate with the man - in less than an hour he'd raised a fair amount of ruckus in her well-ordered life.
It was a longish way to the East annexe through orchards that occupied much of the property. A narrow, winding, well-beaten track, drenched with the scent of nascent oranges, took them away from the main house.
She led him past the barely manicured lawn that boasted a garden swing which was still her favorite reading spot, and past the crumbling bird bath that her grandfather had commissioned from the local potter. A sharp turn around the ancient rabbit hutch - empty for years - and there it was.
'This is the East Annexe,' she said. 'I hope it’ll suit.'
'No problem. I'm sure it'll be great. Really sorry to barge in like this...anyway ... um ...well, I'm not sure, yet, how long I'll stay, so this is fine.'
Still secretive! Never mind how long he planned to stay - why was he here? Who was he?
Mohini decided to keep quiet for the time being. It was more important to get Mister Hot Bod clothed. She'd call her brother, Ritvik, later and worm everything out of him. She still had to find the man’s cell phone. And she’d have to remember to ask Bindro to ensure, before she left for the day, that there was enough dinner to feed the guest.
Hopefully, the list she'd drawn up in her head would keep her so busy she wouldn't have time to dwell on the panic attack that had thrown her off keel.
'What about your stuff?' she asked as she pushed open the large, intricately carved, wooden doors to the annexe. 'How did you reach the village?'
'Every thing's in the boot of my car. I parked, as instructed by Bindro, in the field behind the main house. I hope that's all right?'
When she nodded, he continued, 'I'll go get my bags. Give me a mo...'
'No!... I mean, I'll have them fetched. Nikkoo should be here by now and I'll ask him. That's Bindro's brother. You - er - get cleaned up meanwhile, and - um - put something on ... that is, after I have your stuff sent over.'
Hoping he wouldn't notice that she was babbling, Mohini hurried inside a large, well-proportioned room. It had the typical high ceiling of a home built to combat torrid six-month summers. And survive humid monsoons.
Flipping switches as she went, she soon had the room bathed in a cool fluorescent light. Another switch turned the mosquito repellent on. Drawing back curtains, she pointed out the bathroom, a dressing room, and two tiny bedrooms.
'Take your pick,' she said, of the bedrooms. 'Oh, and one of these cupboards has towels and sheets and stuff.'
She waited for him to finish inspecting the premises, and frowned at how the place shrank the minute he stepped in. Despite the towering ceiling of the colonial-style building, Aalok seemed to fill the room. Mohini fidgeted, wanting to be gone already. Her childhood playroom, witness to myriad adventures, suddenly seemed claustrophobic.
Her guest wandered into one of the bedrooms - she didn't dare follow him into the confined space. He was out in seconds and walked across to check the other one. She heard him whistle, then chuckle, but she stayed put - biting her lip to quell the impulse to go see what was amusing him. Moments later, when he finally came out, he carried a large, knitted teddy bear dressed in a bright pink coat.
'I'll take this bedroom,' Aalok laughed. 'It offers a room-mate.'
Mohini flushed. 'That's Raja. He's mine. I haven't seen him in years, but ...'
She held out her hand. 'I'll take him, if you don't mind.' The sight of her childhood friend tucked into the man's bare-chested embrace troubled her.
'Aw, come on,' he cajoled, as if she was a grumpy two-year old. 'You have your cat - let me have Raja.' His eyes glinted wickedly, and Mohini stopped herself from rushing across the room to rescue the teddy bear.
The man clearly did not believe in personal space or personal property or any of the boundaries most people took for granted.
'Fine,' she said, turning and stalking out. He made her fuming mad! Let him play his silly games - she couldn't care less.
'Dinner is in fifteen minutes,' she warned over her shoulder, tempted to latch the door and lock him in so he couldn't disturb her equanimity with his easy, unwelcome, familiarity.
Horrid, bare-chested, teddy-bear stealing man!
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I am an ophthalmologist, but make time for my other passions – reading and writing, watching romantic comedies, and creating lacy stuff using a crochet hook. It was my fabulous mother who started it all – she introduced me to reading and to the wonderful world of the imagination. My father served in the army and took the family along mostly wherever he went – those experiences, and my adventures learning and practicing medicine, vie for a place in my stories.
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Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorReet (@AuthorReet)
Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Reet-Singh/e/B00I6J47LK