When fear writes the past, only love can direct the future.
Bollywood Confidential, Book 2
Priya Roy is back in Bollywood with a rock-hard body, a precious gem of a secret and a heart of ice. Producer/director Rahul Anand won’t waste this second chance at his first love. He’ll melt Priya’s resistance at any cost—even if it means returning to acting and negotiating his way onto her next project. Hell, if she’d give him half a chance, he’d write himself into every scene of her life.
Talk show host Sunita “Sunny” Khanna and her brand-new producer, Davey Shaw, are determined to get Rahul and Priya on her show for a ratings-boosting reunion episode. She and Davey strike instant sparks, but Sunny, burned after her disastrous marriage to a Bollywood bad boy, is determined not to fall into the fire.
Lurking on the edges of the frame is Rahul’s stepmother, trouble-making man-eater Nina Manjrekar. And when she hijacks the script, only honesty can turn a first draft into the romantic superhit it’s meant to be.
Product WarningsThis book contains smoking, smoking and then kissing, kissing while lying, and some really, really questionable décor.
Copyright © 2012 Suleikha Snyder
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Bits of gold dust clung to her skin. She shimmered in the dim lighting of the hotel bathroom, as if she were still in the center of the spotlight, immersed in the dance. But Priya knew all too well that it was not her role in the drama that had mattered. The Raj, a sweeping picture about love and friendship in the time of the British rule, had somehow become a real-life documentary about backstage romance. Her costars had turned into leads in their individual love stories…while she looked on, an audience member.
“Arré, shabbash.” She chuckled to herself, wiping glitter from her throat with a wet towel. “Congrats. Way to over-intellectualize, Pree.” Such a Bengali thing to do: beat a metaphor to death and gaze into one’s navel so intently that you lost sight of everything else.
But she could not deny that being on the set of a film again was strange. Different from the acting studio, the gym, the dance classes…everything Priya had done just to get back to this very place. It was a different world…one that had changed in the six years she’d been away. More competitive, harder, shinier. But she, too, had changed, na? Sometimes Priya barely recognized the girl she saw in the mirror. Gone were the baby-round cheeks, the soft curve of her belly, the generous swell of her breasts. In their place was a lean, almost harsh, physique. A body that the cameras and the unforgiving glass of her aaina both loved. Wow, the cinema magazines all proclaimed, Priya is rough and tough, Priya is a size one-two punch!
If only they knew how hard she’d truly fought. The Rose of Bengal had been forced to grow thorns. In the industry’s poisonous garden, such defenses weren’t unwelcome…but, still, she missed the delicate blossom, the sweet kid who hadn’t known any better than to enjoy the glamour and glitz. The Priya she’d become couldn’t play the heroine any longer. Only the vamp, the vixen, the item girl. The whore.
The word constantly hung at the back of her thoughts, like another mirror that showed only her ma’s shame, her baba’s rules and the part she’d played every single day under their roof of a contrite child desperate to prove herself. I’m sorry, she had told them. Don’t punish me, she had begged them. I won’t disappoint you again, she had promised. All the while, she’d cultivated her sharp edges. Touch her now, and you would come away bleeding.
Govind Joshi had brought her on to The Raj because of her “rocking” body and the sex it sold. She’d known passion, and it showed. That was her blessing and her curse: No one looked at her and saw a virgin’s role anymore. No one except Rahul Anand…who gazed at her across a room like she was still his naïve leading lady. If she closed her eyes, she could still feel the power of his. The way he’d watched her hips. How he’d followed the path of her hand as it seductively stroked Avinash Kumar’s chest, Harsh Mathur’s shoulder and Sam Khanna’s face. Rahul had catalogued her every move like it was a slight against the memory of the girl he’d known.
The girl he’d loved. The girl he’d abandoned without a second thought.
“Stop it,” she told herself. “Just stop it.” There was no use in looking back on the past. No point. What was done was done. Khatam. Shesh. Finito. Pick a language, it was all the same: over.
Priya’s breath caught in a sob that she forced back down, and she spun away from the damning mirror, returning to the alien cocoon of the rented bedroom. It had no memory, no judgment. Its pillows had hosted a thousand heads before hers and would host a thousand more after she was gone. There were no ghosts except the ones she’d packed in her bags. And in the pocket of one such bag she found the tiny, airplane-sized bottle of vodka she’d tucked away mid-flight. A vice she never allowed herself in Kolkata and only indulged in sparingly in Mumbai. But who would care in the wilds of Bihar if Priya Roy gave herself a one-two punch, na? She would put in an extra thirty minutes in the gym tomorrow, tack on twenty more sit-ups to her daily one hundred, and allow herself this one excess.
The first swig went down hot instead of cold, burning a path down her throat. The second mouthful was easier and fortified her when a knock sounded at the door.
Opening a door while holding a small bottle of daru probably wasn’t the wisest course, but Priya was tired after the day’s shor-sharaba and past caring. If reporters were wandering the hotel, they were more likely to stumble upon Sam and Vikram Malhotra still celebrating their reunion than an item girl who wasn’t even drunk yet.
As it turned out, her luck was worse. It wasn’t a gossipmonger who stood in the hall but a judge. A handsome, serious judge in jeans and a silk panjabi shirt. Rahul. Of course. And, of course, he stole her breath. Caught unawares, she hadn’t time to put on her armor, to steel herself against him. So just taking in the sight of him was like being pushed from a cliff and plummeting headfirst into the sea. Her limbs remembered twining around him. Her mouth recalled, with startling clarity, his kisses. With just one glance, every bit of her clamored for a repeat of what her heart was determined to keep buried.
“Priya, yeh kya hain? What is this? What are you doing? Tu kya karahe hu?” he demanded. He met her gaze, took in her nightclothes—stripped her of them—before his dark eyes focused like a laser on the tiny botol of Skyy.
Her laser targeted his words. “‘Tum’,not ‘tu’,” she corrected, before scrambling for the safest, most distancing tongue. “You lost the right to the most casual address, Rahul. We are strangers now. What do you want?”
What did he want? She didn’t have to ask. She knew. She’d known since she was a silly girl of nineteen, and she’d wanted the same thing just as badly. She often didn’t recognize her reflection in the mirror, but she still recognized the stupidity of her passion…of their passion, which burned far more than any liquor. How could she not, when she had to live with the consequences?
“What do you want?” she asked again—only this time she was posing the question to herself. Did she want Rahul to go? Did she want him to stay? Did she want a hundred apologies and roses laid at her feet? Or did she simply want his arms wrapped round her in silent reparation? Maybe all she needed was to banish the reality of him as firmly as she’d banished the memories. Khatam. Shesh. Finito.
He’d come for one thing, and here, in this anonymous room, in this remote place, perhaps she could give it to him…while keeping tight hold of everything else that mattered.