Chapter 13

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Avni had never had so much of fun in her whole life! As Anjali had pointed out, she hadn't had a choice but to join the khannas for tour. They had started travelling at 8 a.m. in a comfortable family bus and had visited Jantar Mantar, Jaipur Zoo, Jal Mahal and City Palace. Now they were inside Hawa Mahal, popularly known as the Palace of the Winds and she was looking out of a Jharokha, a latticed window at the street.

The journey had been hilarious with Mr. Khanns non-stop jokes. She had even warmed up to the husbands of Neil's sisters as they had chatted with her about different topics varying from books to movies to politics and world's economy. They had treated her like their baby sister and it had brought a lump in her throat, especially when Aakash, Neil's eldest brother-in-law had patted her head casually when she had clicked a picture of him and his wife Rachana.

All of a sudden she felt she was draped in love and warmth and it as making her slightly dizzy. She had watched quietly as Mr. Khanna had got a picture clicked with his four daughters and had been surprised when he had asked her to join them. She had experienced a different sort of kinship when Inky, Pinky, Ponk, Key had got a selfie clicked along with her.

Everything had been wonderful. The kids had warmed up to her and she had enjoyed a lot while playing with them. She had almost overcome with tears when Tanya and Shyla, twin daughters of Inky had kissed her cheeks after she had braided their hair. They had had lunch in a local Rajasthani shed where they had eaten Jalebis and Dal Baati.

Right now, they were in Hawa Mahal and she was enjoying the cool wind. According to history, Hawa Mahal was built at an extreme height so that the women of the royal household could observe street festivities while unseen from the outside since in those days the royal ladies were not allowed to make public appearances. For one childish moment, she too felt as if she was a princess who could see everybody but nobody could see her.

She almost laughed at the ridiculous notion of ever becoming a princess and turned while stepping back. She bumped into a hard body and looked up. It was Neil. He was looking at her.

"Sorry" she said breathlessly and stepped aside. Neil looked at her for another moment then went away to play with the kids. Avni felt the similar surge of pain, only more intense than the last time as she watched his retreating back. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Pain could not be ignored. But then, no pain, no gain, right?

She saw Ankita clicking a selfie with Samir with his arms around her and smiled sadly. True, she was enjoying but no level of enjoyment could cover the fact that the person from whom she wanted slight attention wasn't paying any attention to her at all. They had sat side-by-side in the bus because all the males had preferred to sit with their wives. Luckily, she had got the window seat which had blessed her with the opportunity to hide her face. She had been aware of Neil for the entire journey. It had been frustrating, exciting, tiring and embarrassing.

Mr. Khanna's jokes had provided with a certain distraction but it hadn't been enough. Whenever their thighs had touched or arms had brushed against each other she had nearly forgotten where they were. It had taken all her energy to remain seated and not pull Neil's head down to kiss him hard. She had wondered if Neil was affected too because she had seen the way his eyes used to darken whenever they had shared those steamy, passionate kisses in New York. But not surprisingly, he hadn't showed any emotion towards her. He had talked with his family and kids normally where as her heart had been hammering in her chest.

Thankfully, this time, while returning, partners changed and she sat with Pinky. Her heart was terribly disappointed because though Neil hadn't spoken a word to her, at least he had been close to her. At least she had been able to touch him unintentionally in some way. But undoubtedly, this was relaxing too. For the time being she had got rid of the sexual frustration to some extent. Of course, looking at him after every few minutes didn't help, but nothing could be done about it. She had fallen hopelessly in love with him. Now she was realizing the value of those impromptu kisses. They were worth cherishing.

If only Neil broke his silence...

By the time they ate dinner, thankfully she was quite tired. Now she could go and sleep. But Rachita had other plans. All the females decided to go for a short walk, leaving the men in charge of the children. Avni sighed in relaxation as they all walked on the terrace and looked at the beautiful city of Jaipur. The air was cool and comforting. It was nothing compared to the winter in New York but still she had wrapped her mother's shawl around her. It made her feel safe and secure.

"So, what are the plans for tomorrow?" Neil asked as he let little Mehul sit on his shoulders.

"Nothing. We've been told to stay in the room and babysit the children" Mr. Khanna replied as he settled more comfortably on the armchair.

"Oh is it?" Neil chuckled. "And what are the ladies up to?"

"Emptying our bank account" Aakash replied as he watched Tanya and Shyla.

"Shopping and spa" muttered Samir.

"In their actual words going all gaga" Kunal put in with a laugh.

"We'll have our chance too, after Christmas. To men night" Ankush raised his glass of wine.

"To men night" all of them raised their glasses.

Avni felt dizzy as she looked at the number of her shopping bags. Ten! There were ten bags. She had never done so much of shopping in her life! She still couldn't understand how had everybody talked her into it. Last night while walking with the ladies the plan had been made and she had been told to join them.

She had been nervous and slightly unwilling since she felt she didn't have a very good taste and didn't want others to know it. But again, she hadn't had a choice since she had been told that she would be spending Christmas with the Khannas.

She'd been dreading this shopping trip for the entire night but she needn't have worried. Mrs. Khanna and Inky, Pinky, Ponk, Key had proved to be excellent shopping companions. They had actually admired her taste and had made her understand that her taste was different and unique. At the same time she had learnt a lot about various new things. Khanna ladies were suave yet simple with class. A perfect combination of arrogance and humility except that arrogance could not be considered bad. It looked more appealing with their personality.

By mid-afternoon, she had purchased gifts for everybody- Ali, Mitali, Stella, Mr. and Mrs. Parekh, Inky, Pinky, Ponk, Key, their husbands and kids, Mr. and Mrs. Khanns and- Neil.

She had been hesitant at first. Would it be right to buy gifts for her boss's family? She had known them only since last one week after all. Would they accept it? Would they like it? But still she had bought because somehow, it had just felt right! This was also a small token of gratitude for all the love and care they had bestowed upon her.

She didn't know what would happen after New Year when she would leave with neil for Mumbai. Khannas were so warm and affectionate people that they could make anybody feel welcomed in their company. Maybe for now it appeared as if they had developed a firm friendship but who knew, they might not remain in touch after New Year.

Whatever it was, she was never going to forget these few days with them. She had received enough love of a family to last a lifetime. Maybe she would never have Neil, but these wonderful moments were surly not getting lost in the sands of time.

Avni sighed blissfully as she felt her body relaxing with the body massage the parlor girl was giving her. They had all dumped their bags in three cabs which had taken them to the hotel and like excited girls had entered into a saloon for pampering themselves.

The next few hours passed in blissful relaxation as pedicure, manicure, hair spa, fruit facial and steam bath etc were done. When they all stepped out of the parlor, Avni was feeling extremely fresh, new, happy and energetic. The rejuvenation felt heavenly.

She was laughing at something said by Rachana when she felt her arm being grasped in a tight grip and turned around ruthlessly.

"What the-?" She stopped and looked at the two women in horror as all the color drained from her face.

Sakshi and rhea were scowling with their eyes literally throwing daggers at her!

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Please vote and commen.

I am working really hard for these chapters.

Love uh all

~reona

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