When Anna came out of her bedroom three days later, well-rested but wound up tight waiting for AJ to return, she heard loud, guffawing laughter on the terrace that sounded like her grandmother in the morning. Not being a particularly cheerful morning person, Anna had grumbled her entire lifetime at the sound of that.
Now she missed it like a physical ache, so much so that she was beginning to imagine that laughter thousands of kilometers away. She should be leaving, she knew. Every evening she told herself just one more day. Whatever AJ had left to accomplish, it had been important, she knew that much. And yet, the silence was killing her. And she was getting anxious about how Granny was doing, too.
Her nurse had told her she’d been resting all three times that Anna had called in the last two days. But she didn’t want AJ to come back to an empty house, either. Not when he’d left such a tenuous question between them. Not when she wanted to explain her thoughtless comment to him.
She walked onto the veranda, called by the strong scent of coffee wafting up. And came to a standstill. For a split second, Anna wondered if the new makeup she’d bought not two days ago was causing her to hallucinate.
Because Granny was sitting there, in her usual clothes of flowery salwar and loose pants, sipping coffee, and laughing uproariously at something Virat Raawal said to her. Her other side was flanked by the equally dazzled Vikram Raawal. The third person at the breakfast table was Zara, who waved at Anna and smiled wide.
Anna wondered if she was dreaming.
“You’re not,” a voice whispered at her back.
Strong arms came around her waist, and a hard body anchored her as her legs trembled. With a gentle nudge, AJ pulled her out of sight of the veranda. Slamming her against the wall, he kissed her so gently that Anna felt as if she was floating on clouds.
“I don’t care whether you want children or not. I love you, Anna.” His gaze flashed with a tenderness that tugged at her heart. “I want to spend the rest of my life loving you, darling. Making you laugh. Waking you up with a kiss. Holding you when you’re scared. Making music with you.
“I tried to let you go. I told myself you’re better off without me. But I was just lying to myself. I won’t let the past and its fears ruin our future. Not anymore.”
Anna let the tears flow. When he looked alarmed, she wiped her cheeks. “No, I’m happy. I’m so, so happy. And I want to start a family with you.” When he shook his head, she went on. “No, listen to me. I was angry and hurt that day. I—I felt as if I was slowly being pulled away from you and you kept insisting that everything was fine. When you suggested we get pregnant…I lost it and said words I didn’t even mean. Of course, I want to make babies with you, AJ. I grew up wanting to be a part of a big family. So I’m going to insist on at least five.”
He laughed and kissed her and they laughed together some more. “Five might be a bit too ambitious, sweetheart. I do want to keep at least a little of you to myself.”
“Four then. I’m not going below that number. We’ll teach each at least two instruments and build our own orchestra.”
Arms so tight around her that he almost crushed her, AJ lifted her off the ground. His kiss this time was ravenous. Their mouths bumped in a frenzy and then they were laughing again.
“Thank you for bringing Granny here. I could’ve never guessed.”
His eyes shone with a joy Anna never wanted to lose. “Remember how you told me to ask her when I asked you to marry me?”
Her eyes filled up again.
AJ wiped them with utter gentleness. “I know I messed up, Anna. I wanted her to know that I was fixing my mistakes. That I intended to try again with you and not fail this time. I told her I wanted her blessing.”
“What did she say?” Anna asked, her heart in her throat. She hoped Granny hadn’t stripped him to his core with her sharp tongue.
AJ laughed again, his eyes dancing with mirth. “She looked me up and down, called me an idiot and asked me why the hell I’d taken so long to come to my senses. And then she bid me to join the nurse and her in their rummy game. After she fleeced me of at least fifty thousand rupees, she decided she will grant my request and move in with us.”
Anna burst into laughter at that. Of course, the others heard them and called out their names. With AJ’s arm around her shoulders, and her heart overflowing with happiness, Anna stepped out into the sunny day.
Love wasn’t rainbows and syrupy songs, but it shouldn’t be without light and laughter, either.
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