I haven't written spontaneous fiction in FOREVER. But Elizabeth Gabriel, @bandherbooks on Twitter, mentioned a hypothetical anthology of stories about the world-weary righthand man of the mafia bosses in dark romance and here we are.
When she slips out of her room, Armaan is at his post. Like always. Leaning against the wall next to the door. Five o’clock shadow hugging his jaw. So deceptively casual.
“Ma’am,” he growls like a leashed hunting dog. “Can’t let you go in there.”
It’s nothing he hasn’t said a half dozen times before. Nothing she hasn’t ignored the very same number of times. But all of a sudden she’s not sure she should. Not certain she even wants to. Six weeks she’s been here now. A dozen times she’s been over that threshold. What if what she needs is right here in front of her? What if he’s been here all along? Not blocking a door, but opening one.
Ma’am. Even though he knows her name. They all know her name here. The Boss has made sure of it. Her name, her face…should they forget either and let her escape, there’ll be hell to pay. But this man has never made her feel like a prisoner. No, he just watches her with his keen dark eyes, chewing on a toothpick like it’s paan or tobacco. His sleeves rolled up to reveal thick wrists and forearms dusted with black hair. Be meek but not too meek, he’s told her in Hindi. Challenge him but watch him. Pieces of advice and information about her captor. Just enough to survive the cat and mouse games they play in the dacoit’s main hall.
Everyone talks of the Boss’s power. And, yes, he’s rife with it. It rolls off him like the waves of the Indian Ocean. He’s a handsome man in his mid-fifties, and his presence sends as much fear down her spine as it does shivers of attraction. Sometimes she forgets why she’s here and enjoys the masala chai he pours and the threats wrapped in flirtation.
She’s never had tea with Armaan. They’ve never bantered. No coy smiles and soft touches. He simply watches. He only waits. Whether he’s protecting the Boss or her is a mystery tucked inside his embroidered silk waistcoat. Kept tight against his heart.
“Say my name.” It’s a ridiculous request. Standing before him in a borrowed sari and bare feet. No defenses. Nothing save her wits and her wiles—neither of which have ever mattered to the stern right hand of the most dangerous man in the Calcutta underground. She feels it as his gaze flicks over her. Cataloguing, studying, looking for what she’s truly asking. Her skin breaks out in goose bumps. Her nipples pebble.
His voice is raw when he finally speaks. His hand a fist at his side. His brown eyes burn like a kerosene lantern.