Choti Raani Saheeba looked critically at the Grand Dining hall as everyone entered. It did look stunning even she had to admit. She could still pull out the stops and paste over the cracks when required, now she hoped that her husband could also do the same. She looked at him with the same critical eye, was he up to the job, there was a lot of money around this room and they could definitely do with it.
She spied Samir holding out the chair for Dr Gupta and the way his eyes looked at her. Excellent, she thought it looks like the distraction will work. As she looked at him she wondered what his mother had, that she did not, she had been just as beautiful, an accomplished hostess, a perfect royal princess but her husband had never even bothered to look. The way Amar Singh's cold eyes had looked at her in her wedding finery on their wedding day had killed that beautiful woman inside her. That day all her dreams had turned to ashes in the fire that they made their vows around. She had realised then he was not the man she had thought him to be, neither was he half the man that his brother had been. Whilst his brother had been a womaniser and a gambler to the core he was at least passionate about life. The only time Amar Singh had shown any kind of passion was around Raani Saheeba, never for his own wife.
Amar Singh diligently saw that his wife was seated and looked around the room whilst he waited for all his guests to filter in, at least she was good at being a hostess if nothing else, he watched her as she smiled at people here and there, that perfectly pasted smile that she always wore. It was the same smile she had worn from the day they had got married, it grated on his nerves. The silly girly laugh she tried to hide behind and yet the hard jealousy still showed in her eyes. He had seen her watch Raani Saheeba with those jealous eyes many a time. He thought back to the full tinkling laughter of Raani Saheeba and her warm eyes, swallowing his bitterness he smiled congenially at the French Ambassador and his wife as they took their seats next to them. It was time to put on the show.
“So we meet again,” Samir said matter-of-factly. Pulling out her chair for her, dismissing away a servant who was about to do the service for her.
He saw she was flustered to see him here, thoroughly enjoying having the advantage over her. Those extraordinary eyes flashed at him and he knew it would not be long before she came into her own again.
Persephone, how very unusual, someone in her family must have loved classics he thought. She really looked like a goddess tonight he thought, she pulled her shinning silky long hair to one side as she sat down and he had a delectable view of her long gorgeous back where the pretty tassels hung just waiting to be untied. It was going to be a long night he groaned to himself.
His eyes took in the sari which sparkled as she moved, matching her eyes so beautifully, there was something missing though he thought and then he realised she was not wearing any jewellery at all making her stand out from the women here who had draped themselves in gold practically from head to toe. She had just the right colouring for the kind of Sapphires his mother used to wear, they would look fantastic on her he thought, yes he would like to see her in sapphires.
Perse did not register her opulent surroundings. It was not as if the Grand dining room was anything less then impressive, the silver gleamed, the settings were all stamped with the Rathore Royal Crest, crystal sparkled, enormous chandeliers glittered with a million rainbows, exotic flower displays graced the table from one end to another, servants lined up behind the guests, ready for the slightest wave of the hand to receive instructions, but all she could think about was the man next to her, his lean length, he seemed to radiate so much energy.
Her mind went back to when they had met and she had asked him what he was doing there, he had lied to her by omission, not telling her who he was.
“Why did you not tell me who you were?” she asked turning slightly to look at him her eyes resting on his handsome face.
His stared back his dark eyes unreadable, so she was peeved that he had not come out and introduced himself, well two could play at that game.
“I do not recall you asking, or introducing yourself either.” he replied calmly as a waiter hovered next to her offering to pour wine into her glass. She declined accepting water instead.
She thought about that for a moment, true enough she had not introduced herself either, it just had not occurred to her.
Their attention was diverted momentarily as there was a commotion of sorts on the other side of the table as Raghav took his seat directly opposite her, his friends flanking him on either side. Samir frowned at his half-brother, whose flushed cheeks and glazed eyes gave away his drunken state.
Raghav's eyes were fixated on Perse as he took large gulps of wine, a waiter watched Raghav with fright as he diligently poured more wine into his crystal glass, his hand shaking slightly.
The guests were all being found their places and seated now. One of the men from the French Ambassador's party came and settled down on her left smiling at her charmingly, they had met fleetingly just a few minutes ago.
Perse smiled back at him. Samir's eyes narrowed as the French man started talking to her in his native language, Perse replied back just as fluently. Samir scowled as the man tried one corny line after another, her laughter gently tinkled out at a really corny line the French man dished out to her.
Raghav stared at the woman in front of him, he wanted her, she stood out from all the others. Her red hair and that exquisite skin, she was definitely something worth pursuing he thought he would enjoy that delectable body willingly or unwillingly. He felt someone glaring at him and turned slightly to look to her side and found Samir's furious eyes on him. Smiling back Raghav raised his glass in a salute to his half brother. He wondered what his half-brother was scowling at, why was everyone so bent on being serious, Raghav sighed, he just wanted to party and he would, after all he was a royal prince!
There was a call from the head of the table as his uncle stood up and a servant requested silence from all gathered.
Maharajah Amar Singh stood and his eyes scanned the room. He smiled taking in the gathered guests. It was going to be a good night tonight in terms of takings he thought as he saw quite a few of his intended victims pleasantly drunk.
“Royal Guests, Ambassador, Ladies and Gentlemen thank you all for coming. This is a both a sad and happy moment for me, sad as I have lost my dear brother the late Maharajah, Pratap Singh Rathor so recently but this moment is also happy as my nephew Maharajah Udayveer Samir Singh Rathor has finally come home to us, this party is in his honour. I hope that Udayveer enjoys his stay with us before he goes back to New York and his worldwide business interests.”
She felt him suck in a deep breath next to her and sit up stiffly at his uncle's words. His eyes cold and unreadable, she watched as he gazed at his uncle his face taut with tension, his uncle smiled back but there was no love she could see in his eyes for his nephew either.
“So please enjoy your dinner and then we will continue the party.” Amar Singh continued raising his hand for the servers to come forward, stopping them with a surprised look as he saw Samir stand up.
Samir stood up and all eyes turned on him, his expression was casual but Perse could feel the tension emanating from him. He smiled at his uncle and aunt, the smile not quite reaching his eyes and said “ Its good to be home at last, thank you for organising this wonderful party in my honour, Choti Raani Saheeba and Uncle, in fact I am enjoying being here so much now that I have decided to run my business interests from here. And please lets not stand on ceremony, do call me Samir. Thank you all for making me feel so welcome in my home.” He finished with the sarcastic barb.
If Amar Singh was surprised at what he said, he did not show it, the consummate card player that he was. He graciously raised his crystal glass in a toast to Samir's words. Choti Raani Saheeba had turned awfully pale Samir thought, as he watched her closely. He turned to look at his half-brother and smiled but now Raghav was not smiling back, he had the distinct look of a little boy who had his lollipop taken away from him.
Samir sat down his body language calm and casual as the waiters resumed their serving of the first course. Lets see what they make of that he thought.
Perse heard the deeply expelled breath from him, she glanced at him from under her lashes, although he appeared calm she could see he was still wound up like a spring. There was definetly a lot of pained emotion hidden behind that cool handsome face maybe the permanent scowl on his face had something to do with this she pondered.
Amar Singh sat down and the waiters started serving the first course.
“Bahadhur Singh tells me you wish to take pictures of the Peacock palace any particular reason why?” he asked casually, interrupting her wandering thoughts.
She poised, soup spoon in hand, “I am writing a book on Indian Palaces, it would be wonderful to include the Peacock palace and the Summer palace.” Looking around the room she said “It is in exquisite condition and I hear the grounds and stables are beautiful too. My book is from the people's perspective, from families of the artisans who built it, to the people who live around this area. The kind of stories that are passed from generation to generation about the place.” she rattled on clearly showing her passion for the project.
“By the way thank you for returning my camera” she said smiling, “I cant think why I actually forgot to take it off you that night, normally I do not let it out of my sight.”
Samir smiled at her, it was such a devilish smile that Perse forgot to breathe. Soup and all around her forgotten, she stared at him mesmerised. His dark eyes said it all, he knew exactly why she had not remembered the camera or anything else that night.
He gestured with those sooty framed eyes towards her soup and she hastily resumed eating it trying to ignore the butterflies in her stomach which had nothing to do with hunger. What was it about him that made her catch her breath she wondered letting the waiter take away her half finished soup.
From across the table she felt a heavy stare and looked up to see the man opposite her gazing at her with a fixated look, he looked a little like Samir she thought, but with none of his charisma. His eyes were almost stripping her bare, she did not like the way he was looking at her at all, unconsciously she shivered with revulsion.
Samir noted her reaction. He was just about to warn her about Raghav when he remembered her flashing angry eyes and her comment about trying to rescue her when she did not need it. Keeping quiet he decided to just keep an eye on the movements of his half-brother instead.
“Madam vegetarian or Non?" the waiter asked.
“Vegetarian please,” Perse said.
Perse looked at Raghav across the table with a glare, the way he was looking at her was quite unbearable, he smiled back at her. It was not a nice smile Perse thought.
“Persephone, why don’t you come tomorrow and I will get Bahadhur Singh to show you around so you can take pictures, it's a huge place it may take a few days though.” Samir said trying to distract her from Raghav.
Perse looked at him with excitement in her eyes, “Really?” she said “and do call me Perse everyone does.” Although she had to admit the way he said her name made her senses tingle.
“Yes, Really,” he repeated with mock exaggeration, his breath catching in his chest as her eyes had turned a vivid blue with excitement “And I am not everyone.” He said smiling at her in that devastating way.
“Thank you your Highness.” Perse said a slight blush rose on her cheeks at his sultry tone.
“Just call me Samir” he replied, “I would show you around myself but I have a couple of appointments tomorrow.”
“I will be fine with Bahadhur Singh, thank you, he is adorable.” Samir smiled at the thought of Bahadhur Singh being called that. “I am sure he could tell me plenty of tales about this place. The food is quite delicious.” she rattled on, smiling at him enjoying her main course of Rajasthani dishes.
Samir groaned to himself not really interested in the food any longer, her eyes, the fragrance of wild flowers so unique to her filled his senses, he could feel her every breath sitting this close to her.
Soon dinner was over and everyone flooded back into the main hall, where now the lights were turned low and candles burned everywhere making the whole place seem romantic, the flames on the candles reflected in the unique gold and glass inlay in the furniture. He escorted Persephone out, she was the target of a huge number of admiring male glances he noted, scowling at any man who looked at her for too long.
He noticed that a few of the dignitaries were missing and he gestured to Bahadhur Singh to find out where they had disappeared, Bahadhur Singh came and whispered to him that his uncle had retired into the back rooms to play poker taking them with him and Raghav was seen to be heading somewhere with the politicians daughter.
Soft music was playing and people started dancing. Choti Raani Saheeba appeared out of nowhere beside him and Persephone and said in her girly voice “Are you not going to ask this very beautiful young lady to dance?”
Samir frowned, he had wanted to go and see what his uncle and half-brother were up to but as he looked down at Choti Raani he noted her pale face. He had begun to feel quite sorry for her having to do his uncle's and Raghav's bidding. He smiled graciously at her and offered Persephone his hand inviting her to dance.
“You didn’t have to dance with me if you did not want to!” Perse said indignantly as he led her out to the dance floor.
Samir smiled down at her bristling face, sliding his hand across the bare silken skin at her waist he pulled her close to him.
“Oh, but I wanted to, very much Persephone, have you not learnt by now that I only do what I want to?” he whispered against her silky head.
Her laughter rang out softly against his shoulder, he pulled her even closer when another couple came too close.
The music was soft and slow, Perse all but melted into him as his spicy male scent invaded her nostrils. Her body fitting into his hard contours as if it remembered exactly how. They danced song after song, not wanting to stop, oblivious to others.
Choti Raani Saheeba made sure that all the songs were slow dance numbers so that Samir was kept busy whilst her husband fleeced his guests.
His other hand threaded itself into her silken hair of its own accord feeling the soft silkiness, tilting her face up to him, she was so exquisite.
“Persephone...” he whispered his voice as soft as silk, Perse's eyes focused on his lush lower lip. His eyes looked deeply into hers, she saw a fire burning in their deep dark depths. Her extraordinary eyes had turned a deep violet, he felt himself drowning in them. Never had a woman cast such a deep spell on him.
Suddenly he felt an urgent tap on his shoulder. Annoyed at the interruption he turned his eyes angry, face taut until he saw the grave face of Bahadhur Singh and he knew something was wrong.
Persephone too recovered from the sensual haze as she saw Bahadhur Singh's grave face and realised something was wrong. Without a word Samir threaded his fingers through her hand and followed Bahadhur Singh out of the room taking her with him.
“Sir, please you need to come, something needs your urgent attention.” he said his dark eyes grave as they came away from the music.
“Bahadhur Singh can you see Persephone home please” Samir commanded.
“But Sir you may need me!” Bahadhur Singh replied in Hindi.
“Nahin Bahadhur Singh I will handle it, just make sure she gets back safely” he replied in the same language.
“Kya hua that was so urgent?”
Bahadhur Singh was just about to tell him when Perse decided to intervene feeling that she may overhear something that Samir may not want her to.
“It would be a good time to tell you that I speak Hindi quite well. My father was Indian.” Perse declared.
Both men looked at her, Bahadhur Singh in astonishment and Samir with a raised eyebrow.
“Samir please do not worry I have the number of a reliable taxi driver I just have to call him and he will be here quickly. Arunji from the hotel had arranged this for me.”
Samir looked at Bahadhur Singh for a second and he melted away giving them privacy.
“Persephone, why am I not surprised that you speak Hindi?” he placed his forehead against hers and stood for a moment just breathing her in. “But you will go home with Bahadhur Singh.” her eyes flashed at him in annoyed frustration. He smiled his devastating smile at her knowing she was about to launch into a protest. “Forgive me!” he said “But I have been wanting to do this all night!”
With that he took her lips in a kiss that seared her senses, she clung to his wide shoulders as he sought out the honeyed sweetness of her mouth, she had been kissed before but this......... this catapulted her already overloaded senses into the stratosphere.
Then with a reluctant sigh he pulled away from her, calling out to Bahadhur Singh who appeared like a genie.
“Bahadhur Singh please escort Persephone back to her hotel.” Then looking at him he questioned “Raghav?”
Bahadhur Singh nodded and Samir strode off, the anger evident in his step, without a backward glance at her.
Perse stood her fingertips touching her trembling, throbbing lips, staring at his retreating back with a frown on her face, the man was a total enigma.
Choti Raani Saheeba peered from behind a curtain, staying out of sight she stealthily followed Samir, who was heading in the direction of Raghav's rooms.
© Jane Meme Copyright 27.02.2012