In this scene, Ria, has come down to the kitchen at the crack of dawn, jetlagged and unable to sleep. And she runs into Vic, the man she betrayed for stardom 10 years ago. This is the second time she’s seeing him since coming back. The first time was when she walked in on him with his hands full, umm, full of another woman, that is.
He looked up and caught her watching him again. His eyebrows drew together over angry eyes. She looked away and stared at the empty dishwasher, her arms dangling uselessly at her sides, longing pooling in her belly like warm, thick honey.
His body was none of her business. His mouth was certainly none of her business, especially since it had been all over someone else not too long ago. And now he was apparently only just getting home. Which meant he and that mouth of his had been out all night. With Mira. All night. What time was it anyway?
“It’s five o’clock,” he said.
Her gaze flew up and met his. She hadn’t said the words out loud. The moment stretched out, pulsing between them like a raw, exposed nerve.
They had never needed words.
Vikram came to the exact same conclusion at the exact same moment. Panic flashed in his eyes, throwing him wide open for one beat of a second. With a deliberate gulp he regained his composure and pushed away from the table, rising up to his full height. The oversized kitchen shrank around Ria.
He picked up the empty bowl and looked at the sink behind her. She was leaning so far back into it, she was halfway inside it. He set the bowl back on the table.
“See you around. It’s been a long night.” His voice came out even and in control and completely at odds with what had flashed in his eyes moments ago. He turned and started walking away from her. Good. He was leaving. Perfect.
“So, you’re staying in the house?” She heard her own voice, but she couldn’t possibly have been stupid enough to speak.
He stopped mid-step, veering forward as if she had yanked him back by his belt. He stood like that for a moment, suspended by his struggle to walk away without answering, but then he turned around. Impatience and anger darkened his eyes and colored the crests of his cheeks over all that thick stubble. He couldn’t have made it more obvious how little he wanted to be here talking to her.
“You think Uma would let me stay anywhere else?” Despite his anger his tone softened on Uma’s name.
He always called everyone by their first name. Uma, Vijay—no auntie, uncle, atya, or kaka. For anyone else it would’ve been unthinkably rude and disrespectful. For Vikram it was just plain natural.
Ria shook her head. No, Uma Atya would never let him stay anywhere else.
“Why? Where else did you want me to stay?” The faintest hint of a challenge simmered in his voice and she knew stopping him had been a huge mistake.
Why had she spoken? Why?
“No, that’s not what I meant. I was just— Did you just get home?”
His eyebrows shot up. Ria wanted to tape her mouth shut. She had never had trouble speaking around Vikram. Words that hid from everyone else had bubbled up around him unbidden. It’s what had set him apart, pulled her to him with such force. But she wasn’t eight anymore and this was ridiculous.
His eyes hardened. “All right, I’ll play,” they said. “I drove Mira home. She lives in the city.”
The name dropped between them like a ton of rubble. Ria knew she shouldn’t react, but she couldn’t stop her arms from wrapping around herself.
He took a step closer. “You remember Mira—you met her yesterday.” His eyes were so cold a chill prickled up and down Ria’s arms. “She’s my— We’re together.”
He studied her, intense as a hawk in a hunt, registering every reaction, and zeroing in on the pain his words caused. The way he savored it grated against something deep inside her.
She stopped rubbing her arms and forced her voice to sound as cool as his. “Yes, I noticed. Congratulations. She seems really nice.”
Anger sparkled in the arctic depths of his eyes. “Yes. She is. She’s great.”
Their gazes locked. “And pretty. She’s really pretty too.”
“And she’s not just looks either.” Ria flinched and a satisfied glimmer lit his eyes. “She’s fun. Things are never boring when she’s around.”
“No. You didn’t look bored last night.”
He started. The anger he’d been controlling popped in his eyes and filled them, turning the crystal gray almost opaque. “You’re right, I was far from bored. Although you did walk in before the best part.”
The punch landed hard in the center of her chest and she almost gasped.
He smiled, ready to walk away. But those bloody words were out of her control now. “Good thing you had no trouble starting where you’d left off. You didn’t even wait for me to leave.”
His smile disappeared. “Oh, we had no trouble at all.” His jaw clenched. “What can I say, it’s a gift.” He took another step closer. He was just a few feet away now and Ria felt like someone standing at the foot of a tidal wave as it rose and rose, waiting for it to fold over and take her down. “But you know how that goes. It didn’t take me much to heat you up either, or don’t you remember?”