Chapter 25

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Six Months Later

Khushi leaned on the muscular shoulder with a sigh as a reassuring arm wrapped around her and pulled her closer into the warmth of security. How she'd missed him! They were sitting against the headboard on her bed in her bedroom in the Vaghela House. It was very early morning and although it wasn't totally dark outside anymore, the light hadn't arrived either.

"I missed you so much," she confessed.

"I missed you too, sweetheart. I would have come way sooner had you let me," Archer Calhill replied affectionately.

"I know," Khushi said. She had asked him to come the day before and within thirty-six hours, he was here. In fact, he had landed in Mumbai a few hours back itself. Ever since bhaiya had been shot and she bowed out of Arnav's life, Archie had become her rock. And though he had pleaded almost non-stop to let him come down to India when she had refused to fly to him, there was no way she would have allowed him to step into the violent mess their lives had become since last half a year.

"Thanks again for sending down that neurosurgeon for bhaiya from the US," she added.

"No problem, sweetheart. Glad to be of some help."

"Some help? He gave bhaiya a new lease of life, Archie. It was because of him that bhaiya can partially function from the right side of his body. I cannot thank you enough!"

"How is he?"

"Alive," she mumbled.

"Arnav really got him this time, didn't he?"

Khushi tensed up. While she had told her best friend everything else, she had not divulged her own role in bhaiya's downfall. She trusted Archer with her life, but this was not about trust. Guilt and shame had sealed her lips. Whatever he was, Akash bhaiya was the only real parent she had ever known and she had betrayed him. She understood what she had done, had to be done, and had made her peace with it. But that did not mean she was proud of it. There were some burdens a person doesn't even want their shadow to share. This was one of those millstones on her conscience. The only other soul who knew of her betrayal was Arnav.

"You should have let me come," Archie repeated.

Khushi let out the breath trapped in her lungs before speaking, "You don't get how aggressive and violent dadu had become to avenge bhaiya post this debacle. I was not exaggerating. It is a miracle that he is still alive!"

"So what has changed now?" He had been thankful that she had finally acquiesced to his demand to visit her and had rushed to her side, saving all his questions for a face to face tete-a-tete later.

"I believe he has given up the fight."

"Why?" Archie frowned.

"He lost every time. Nothing he did against Arnav made a dent in his business or his standing. Finally, since the last two months, there had been no attacks and plottings from his side on Arnav. There have been no secret meetings with his men, no discreet phone calls to syndicate members, no midnight disappearances with cars full of armed men, nothing. He doesn't even go into his study much nowadays. Looks like he has given up. He is seventy plus for God's sake. How he even thought that he could fight a young blood like Arnav, who had become so powerful, is beyond me."

"If they were secret, how do you know about his meetings and phone calls?" he asked sharply.

Khushi lifted her face and gave him a sad smile. "I have taken up new hobbies. Eavesdropping, snooping, stalking. It has finally occurred to me that I cannot go on living like a blind fool. I need to know what is going around me. And since nobody is willing to tell me, I have figured out ways to find for myself."

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