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L o v e

U n e x p e c t e d

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L o v e

U n e x p e c t e d

RITU KAKAR

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SriShti PubliSherS & DiStributorS

Registered Office: N-16, C.R. Park New Delhi – 110 019

Corporate Office: 212A, Peacock Lane Shahpur Jat, New Delhi – 110 049

editorial@srishtipublishers.com

First published by

Srishti Publishers & Distributors in 2020

Copyright © Ritu Kakar, 2020

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

This is a work of fiction. The characters, places, organisations and events described in this book are either a work of the author’s imagination or have been used fictitiously. Any resemblance to people, living or dead, places, events, communities or organisations is purely coincidental.

The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the Publishers.

Printed and bound in India

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To my mothers.

Who have, are and will always be the pillars of my strength and encouragement.

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You are what you are, So, if and when presented with the Unexpected by life

One should learn from it and Not run away.

Because,

The fight is always better than flight.

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Acknowledgement

I thank the lord to have revived my passion for writing at the time when He knew I was going to be alone and clueless in life. He gave me my direction and a path of joy to follow.

I thank and appreciate my husband Vicky Kakar and my children Armandeep and Reet, for their love and for always being my support system.

Even though I had stunned everyone around me with the emergence of my fi rst book One Precious Moment, they all were and are so proud of my achievement and my strength to fi nally pursue what I love.

My family – be that my husband, children, parents, in-laws, my sister, my brother, my sisters-in-law, niece, nephew – has not only supported me, but are always encouraging me. Especially my husband (for whom I have now become Author Sahiba). More than me, they all want to see me achieve my heart’s desires.

While I acknowledge all my loved ones for their love, support and encouragement, I need to especially thank fi rst my parents for making me the person I am, and my in-laws for always supporting me to do what I wish to.

I most defi nitely wish to acknowledge my friend, advisor and the fi rst person who helped edit my book Love, Unexpected

Ms Mayura Amarkant. She not only helped draft my book into 163_LU_1st Proof_4 Nov 19 page cum.indd 9

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x   •  Acknowledgement what it is, but helped me set the tone and pan out my book for submissions to publishing houses. Thank you Mayura, you are a true friend and wonderful editor.

I would also like to thank Stuti and Arup for seeing potential in my story and helping me publish it. Team Srishti helped polish the diamond (that’s what this book is for me) for the readers out there. Thank you again.

Last but not the least, I would like to thank the most important people – readers and book lovers. You are the reason we authors write, for whom stories are created. It is because of you lovely people that we love what we do. Thank you so much for helping us spread our passion and acknowledging our work. I say so with pride that my first book One Precious Moment was loved and appreciated because of you wonderful readers. Thank you very much for your passion for loving and reading books.

Heartfelt thanks to all my loved ones... friends and family and book lovers for all your support, encouragement, care, love and most of all, your belief in me. It makes me confident that I will soon be able to reach that sky of mine.

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1

Good Lord! Who could be calling at this hour? Everyone knows better than to trouble me at work, especially from noon to 1:30 p.m., my busiest hours. The only time when the workload at the café is the least, thus the best time to sit and tally all the records, books, fi les and registers for my cafe. It’s a chore that I hate to the core, but the fi nal check has to be done by me. Being the boss has its downside despite having an effi cient staff. The phone continues to ring, I reach for it, immediately, to stop it’s grating sound.

Oops! It’s Sam! We usually prefer to keep our conversations for home. No one better than him knows I’m my worst enemy at this time of the day. So, it has to be a good and valid reason.

Hopefully not like the last time when he had called wanting to know HIS wife’s favourite ice-cream fl avour. Like seriously… he sure got a piece of my mind that day. Since then, today is the fi rst time he has called.

“What!!??” I practically shout into the phone.

“OMG, OMG!!! What are you saying? For heaven’s sake, slow down a bit. Begin again, this time, go slow. Now tell me, how on earth is this possible? Like where? When? How? No, forget that, please tell me is she okay? Why are you wasting your time calling me, you dork? You should be with her!” I shout in fear and panic.

1

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2   •  Ritu Kakar The fear in my voice sure calms my brother a notch. When he speaks again, he uses the regular authoritative tone that he uses with me.

“Gosh Kaira, will you keep quiet for heaven’s sake? Your hyper attitude can create a ruckus enough to wake the dead. Damn it!

You simply go on blabbering making any normal conversations impossible.”

I keep quiet for a few seconds only to snap back with twice the indignation.

“Hey! Hey! If you back up a little, you will realise that a few seconds ago, you did not sound so cool yourself. In fact, you sounded possessed with fear and worry. So, don’t try to act too smart with me, it is just the suddenness of the news that got me a little jittery.”

After a small pause, I added sarcastically, “Sam, will you please settle down and talk. Your pacing around won’t help you loose weight but will sure give you and everyone around a headache.”

“Oh God! Can you not crack jokes especially at a time like this, sister dear? By the way, how did you know I was walking around?”

“Well, that is easy, you, dear brother, sound breathless. It usually happens when you are pacing around. So basically, you cannot even take small rounds without getting short of breath, huh.”

“Okay, fine! Now, stop listing my shortcomings and this meaningless rant? Please, just listen carefully. Tasha is fine. Yes, she is at the hospital, with the doctor attending to her as we speak.

If all goes well, she will deliver our baby anytime soon. Kaira, I cannot express how thrilled I am! But her painful screams echoing through the entire ward is really making me nervous and a little scared.”

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Love Unexpected  •  3

After a small pause, he whispers, almost sounding shocked at his words.

“You know Kaira, I would never have believed Tasha could abuse if I had not heard it myself today. I mean we have been together for more than four years now and never before. But man, did it sound sooo cool and hot coming from her.”

A feeling of relief and calmness rushes through my nerves, with it the need for answers surface. But hearing the last statement does bring a smile to my face. He sounds so zapped. If not for the seriousness of the situation, it would have been hilarious. So, I let it slide for now and start firing questions while gathering my stuff from the desk.

“But Sam, how? When? But mostly, why? Is it not a little too early? I mean, she is not due for another three weeks or so. So, what happened? And what are the doctors saying? How is the baby?”

He takes a deep breath and replies impatiently. I so detest this but for now, I choose to focus on Tasha & the baby. I can imagine him waving his hand in the air as he attempts to explain the situation while continuing with his marathon across the hospital lobby.

“Her water bag broke while we were having lunch. As for your

‘WHY’… how the bloody hell should I know that? This is my first time too! Oh, goodness gracious, wait! I do know why. Yes, yes, actually my baby is super impatient just like her/his crazy aunt. Is that reason enough, eh?”

I let out a fake laugh and respond rather dramatically,

“Yayayaa Sammy, I totally get it. You’re really trying hard to be snarky, but you are awful at it brother.”

“Arrgh!! Kaira! Don’t call me Sammy! You know I hate it.

Especially now that I am going to be a father. It neither sounds mature nor fatherly.”

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4   •  Ritu Kakar His breathing normalises so I guess he has stopped walking. I can almost imagine him smiling slightly now.

I chuckle silently at having rattled him out of his sour mood.

But I clear my throat before speaking again. If he so much as hears the humour in my voice, it would irritate him once again.

“Well, brother dear that is a conversation for another time.

Ohh btw! Why aren’t you with Tasha? Why didn’t you just ask mom to call?”

“I know! I too didn’t want to leave Tasha alone right now.

Calling you myself seemed easier and faster rather than going to look for mom. But now I wish I had, I would have returned to Tasha by now instead of the mindless chattering with you.”

“Don’t be mean bro! You know I can’t help questioning. When I left this morning Tasha was absolutely fine. Add to the fact that I love talking can’t be helped, can it?”

“Yeah, okay, whatever! Now, I have no idea what difference your presence will make but Tasha wants her bestie here. But for what it’s worth come quickly.”

“Hey! That’s not fair! You should know better than anyone what Tasha & my relationship means. So, my presence there is as significant as yours, brother dear.”

“I know … I know! You know hearing you go ballistic when I rattle you especially about Tasha, gives me an amazing high.”

“Hahaha! You are too funny Sammy! I understand you are stressed, but don’t use me to calm your rattled nerves. Everything else aside, it’s my right as an aunty to be with Tasha and you right now. I am after all your one and only sister, THE AUNT!”

“Gosh Kai! You are impossible! Now please get off your high horse and move it. Let’s just pray that all goes well.

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Love Unexpected  •  5

ups, sonographies, and boring pre-natal classes where I was forced to perform your role because you were busy.”

I imitate the obnoxious breathing noises taught in the classes just to pull another fast one on him. I speak in a low, poor me voice,

“You know those classes were embarrassing and pretty torturous. But I did it, didn’t I?”

I pause dramatically again,

“But then you know what Sammy, this child is getting a lively, sexy in fact the most amazing aunt ever! I am after all one of a kind! THE BEST!”

I smile as I imagine the mixed feelings he must be experiencing right now.

“Huh...Whatever! Will you stop self obsessing now and get on that stupid bike you own? We don’t want another patient, so please ride carefully.”

Before I can retaliate, he mutters, “Why can’t you just get a car like normal human beings?”

“OMG! You really are grumpy today! Actually, it is not that much of a surprise, huh. As for my bike and me, we are always careful. FYI cars are boring and take longer to reach places.

Whereas my bike and I understand the roads and each other very well.”

“Okay! Now, will you please hurry. Having to watch Tasha wither in pain was really difficult. Didn’t know she was so strong…

Come fast.. Kai.”

Hearing his forlorn voice sunk my heart. “Hey Sammy!

Chillax…Of course, she is strong, we women are made of steel when it comes to motherhood. Together you will sail through this like everything else you both have. Now, Shush…!! Don’t be a weak-hearted ass! Go in and take care of her as well as my niece/

nephew till I arrive. Bye, I am OMW.”

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6   •  Ritu Kakar

“Huh, what? What on earth is omw?”

“What the f…!”

“Kairaaaa, please don’t curse. Your slangs are incomprehensible.

You know I just hate it when you talk like this.”

“Okay, Mr Indignant, don’t shout at me! I am twenty-five, not five years old. And you are twenty-eight, not eighty. Even though you act and behave like a senior citizen most of the time.”

I sigh and exclaim, “Sam, you really need to start growing up and loosening up a bit. You are going to be a father now! And like seriously? You are asking what is ‘omw’? Huh! It means ‘On my way’. Even a kid knows that! It is so freaking common… ufff!!

Okay, now stop talking so much! I really need to prep everyone here before leaving and you brother are delaying me... Now you need to be with your wifey, I will see you in a while. Bye! You take care now … see you soon.”

I hurriedly hang up before he can start rambling again…

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2

This is me! The TALKER! And where is the fun if you don’t trouble your brother at every chance you get! In Sam’s case, it is effortless to get a reaction from him. He is extreme when it comes to his emotions and attitude towards life.

Being the oldest, he is very prim & proper too, all credit goes to his convent education.

He has a charming and caring side to him, but it’s a latent one. A side one rarely gets to see. All this makes him an amazing

& protective brother, making it tough for me to live up to his expectations.

Of course, all brothers are over protective, especially when one has an impulsive nutcase like me as a sister. Yup! I know I am over-friendly and completely outspoken. My love for life and zest for the NOW is perpetual. Now, I sometimes think that onlookers judge me as outrageous, but trust me, I am not so bad. After all I run a Cafe Library with the help of a fantastic team who are more like family than employees. And where does it say Café owners can’t be mischievous and a tad bit crazy?

Shoot I am doing it again, I need to speak to my team instead of daydreaming. I need to be OMW like now, but I am going to be late (as usual).

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8   •  Ritu Kakar I begin calling out to my team loudly which makes everyone in the library look at me in sheer amazement! I was breaking my own rules! Oh God! I really am preoccupied to have broken my own golden rule!

As I start gathering my stuff, it occurs to me that Nikki will take my case for breaking the rules (shoot) as the library area is a complete silence zone.

My heart is beating loudly pounding with excitement and joy.

I am just dying to tell the world; I am going to be an aunt soon. But for now, it will be announced to the closest people in my circle.

“Nikita, Robin, Pete, guys please hurry. A quick word, I need to leave asap.”

“Kaira, please don’t bring down this place with your shouting.

This is, after all, your Café Library, remember? So at least maintain the decorum of the place you created. Members are busy with serious work; you know that exam time is nearing for most students.”

I reply hurriedly & nonchalantly, “Okay, okay, I am sorry.

Now, where are the others?”

“Robin is at the bank to deposit this month’s profits. Pete, is helping Anita downstairs. It’s a crazy day today. So, tell me, where is the fire?”

“Nikki baby, what will I ever do without you? You, my sweetheart, are the best accountant, manager & friend I have ever had… And no, there is no fire. I am going to become an aunt soon; Tasha is about to deliver the baby. So, you can understand my rush. I have to be at the hospital… like… NOW!”

“Oh! Wow! Congratulations babes! How is Tasha doing?”

“Thank you! I don’t know exactly how she is doing. Sam just called, and he sounded worried. I am rushing there and will update you. For now, you do me the honours and let the rest of 163_LU_1st Proof_4 Nov 19 page cum.indd 8

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the team know. Please, lock up the café as I will not be returning.

Before I leave, I want to make a small announcement. Could you switch on the mike for me please?”

“Okay!!!! Listen up all my dear patrons slash friends slash book lovers, sorry for the rule break, won’t happen again! Enjoy the first round of today’s coffee on the house from the ‘soon to be’

aunt. So, all you lovely people!! Have fun!! You all know the rule -

‘Silence is Heaven for All’. All the best people!!”

I step away from the mike amidst huge cheering and shouts of congratulations from across the café. It feels amazing till Nikki interrupted my joy

“ Kai, will you just leave? I will handle the rest. All the best and God bless!!”

“ Hey, Niki… darling!! I say this again and again… what will I do without you?”

“Survive! ‘Cos that’s who you are. But thank you for making me feel special and important.”

“Hahaha before this becomes an admiration society I am leaving. Adios, amigo!!”

I stop midway & turn back…shoot! I am going to be even more late…but this was important…

“Oh God! I so forgot! Niki! You remember I mentioned this new publishing company a few weeks back, ‘The Lantern’

and the owner Mr Aveer Mehra. The new face in the publishing market? The same guy who has made a huge name for himself in the recent years… do you remember him?”

“Yeah, I remember. He got nominated as the youngest entrepreneur in publishing. The name you went all gaga over, hmm? The man whose picture you searched the net, the papers and what not for.”

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10   •  Ritu Kakar She smiles mischievously. But I am too distracted & just shake my head in affirmation.

She asks in a professional tone when she sees my distracted look.

“What about him?”

“He is bringing a new proposal for our café. I had mailed him a few weeks ago with a proposal to which he agreed. He is coming to negotiate for the range of international bestsellers, the new study material for students, magazines, etc. He says he had loved the concept of our Café Library and was impressed with its growing popularity. After a long discussion over emails, we agreed to meet today.”

I look at my watch and then back at Niki with a sigh.

“He is expected … like NOW!”

She knows exactly where this is going even as I give her my impish look, knowing it works every time.

“Will you please, meet him. You know, to work out the basics.

You can arrange for another appointment with me!!”

I pause to think of another date.

“How about day after tomorrow? Keep it for noon. That way you can update me on everything that is discussed today. For now, explain the reason for the change of plans. I’m sure he will understand.”

Niki’s face had worry and concern written all over it, which surprises me since she usually loves to tackle tough situations.

“But Kai… this is huge! You have been on it for some time now. What if I can’t get it done? It will kill me to disappoint you.

You have been very excited and hopeful about this venture. Why don’t you just call him and postpone the meeting?”

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about the café as I do, if not more. It is not possible to postpone; he should be here any minute. I know you will nail it like you always do. Now bye. GTG.”

Waving a bye, I rush down the stairs - knowing the only way the conversation could have ended.

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3

Shit, shit, shit I am late!! I hurriedly dash down the long fl ight of stairs. Sam is going to kill me, rightly so…. Good heavens, how could I have forgotten about the meeting with Mr. Mehra? I know Nikita will handle it but… Shoot!! Now, I will need to call him and explain. Gosh, why do I get stuck with organizing, updating, chatting, sorting… it causes unnecessary delay…. Hmm… I just can’t help it, can I? I keep getting late.

I really am going to start keeping that organizing diary which everyone keeps telling me I need.

I am looking down and mumbling under my breath while rushing towards my Scooty. Little do I know the unexpected turn of events that lay ahead…

As I rush down I suddenly bang into a warm solid, muscular wall! Shoot! I should have seen where I was going… I fi nd myself fl ying backwards as I feel the quick pull of gravity. A million thoughts race through my mind, the prominent one being the realization that my ass is going to hit Mother Earth soon and hurt in the next fi fteen seconds. My hands are in the air grasping for support Alas! Despite all efforts, things are blurry and moving so fast all around me that I know my attempts to save my fall would fail.

My tote bag is now on the ground somewhere. I am cursing aloud without realizing I am doing so, while I try to break my fall.

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When all of a sudden out of nowhere I am pulled hard to safety by strong, warm & caring hands. He yanks me close… right against his chest.

I whimper, not realizing that it is actually audible, “Ufff! Oh, thank heavens! That was so bloody close!”

I am breathless, struggling to gain control, but the warmth of his grip makes me want hold on. His strength and masculinity are blowing my mind. My mind is working at the speed of light, 6

feet 1 inch tall. Nearly a foot taller than me or so it seems, wow!

Hmmm… broad and toned shoulders with a very firm grip and a chest that has the capacity to bury all my angst. He just saved my ass, quite literally! But, hey, that is BS! He is the cause of my downfall in the first place, huh! But wait… let me judge him later.

While I breathe deeply to steady my nerves, his musky perfume hits my nose. Hmm, what smell is that… is it a touch of spice wood in his cologne? Wow, he smells really good! Does his face match these qualities?

Shoot! I return from fantasy land. What on Earth am I doing?

Am I for real? My bestie is at the hospital, and I keep getting delayed. And now I am actually swooning over a stranger! Wow, God save me from my eccentricity. I don’t have the time nor the luxury to acknowledge anything or anyone right now. Not even the impressive strength and scent of my saviour. I chuckle slyly to myself.

Maybe, if the time had been right, I might have enjoyed the moment. For now, I should just say a quick thank you for saving my ass, literally and just leave. Pulling myself away is an effort.

Nonetheless, I slowly move my hands away from those amazingly broad muscular shoulders. But before I can so much as put in a word, Mr Strong Shoulders speaks, stunning me to silence (a very first) with his ‘oh so sexy & so manly voice’

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14   •  Ritu Kakar

“Hey, watch where you are going, lady. You need to curb that speed if you don’t want to break your bones. You are lucky; I got you when I did.”

WTF... Did this man just reprimand me? It’s okay, isn’t it?

No!! Woo hooo!! No one gets to do that! I was sooo going to be nice and thank him, but now no way on God’s beautiful earth will he be getting that.

“Hey Mister, YOU better watch it!! If it weren’t for you stopping suddenly, in the middle of the stairways, I would have sailed out. I mean… like… who freaking does that, huh? As you just said I could have hurt myself badly. To top that you pulled me so hard I am lucky to have not dislocated a joint!”

“Okay, ma’am! Listen, you seem to be crying wolf here. I saved you from injury and didn’t cause any harm. As for standing in the way, ma’am, you need to get your eyes checked. I am not standing in the middle of the stairway, Ms Fireball? You would have noticed this had you been careful rather than flying out blindly.”

“Ms Fireball? Like… really?? How original!! Huh!!”

“Well, it suits you. After all, who argues with their saviour?

Most people are thankful but you are trying to make me feel guilty. As for the ‘Fireball’ analogy, well you do look like a ball of fire all red and hot. And you are spitting fire.”

And he smiles and winks.

Did he just wink at me? Like is this guy for real? Shoot! Screw him! I don’t have the time for this even though he is really hot…

and his voice… oh man… it’s giving me goosebump