AJ had no chance to counter her uncharacteristically harsh words because Vikram and Virat Raawal walked into the lounge at the exact moment. The two men, while childhood acquaintances of AJ, commanded such presence that all the crackling energy between Anna and him should have crumbled immediately.
But their war of wills only intensified as they both stared at each other.
Not that he had anything remotely appropriate to say to that accusation.
Your father was buying you back from me… There was pain in those words, but more importantly, there was anger in them.
She openly admitted that she’d taken the money his father had offered her. And, yet, there was no shame or even a thread of embarrassment.
Something was amiss here.
His family—especially his father and his three older sisters—all had strong personalities and it had overwhelmed Anna. She had been insecure and unsure of herself in their new life. Her constant griping that they didn’t approve of her, that they even needled her, had annoyed him. After all, his three sisters had raised him, and had healthy opinions about his life and interfered constantly.
But to claim that Papa had been buying him back from her…was ridiculous.
The air crackled in the expansive lounge as Anna and he stared at each other, both unwilling to back off. If he thought his young wife’s head might be turned at what could be termed Bollywood royalty watching them silently, he was wrong.
Anna only had eyes for him. Even if it was a glare that should have reduced him to a pile of steaming ash.
“Do you both need a moment?” Vikram asked in that deep voice of his, his query genuine.
“No, Mr. Raawal,” Anna said, before AJ could speak. Her gaze didn’t shift from his. “I think we’ve just confirmed that there is nothing to be said between us. Nothing that’s real, at least.”
Silence followed that soft declaration.
The defeated stance in her answer and the shadows in her eyes diluted AJ’s anger and called the rational part of him.
Oh, he still absolutely wanted answers. He wanted to drag her into their bedroom upstairs and demand that she stop acting as if he’d wronged her. As if he was the one who’d decided to cash out on their relationship.
And then maybe he would kiss her until the anger melted and the lovely, loving Anna that he’d married emerged. The shy, innocent girl who had, with an unnerving honesty, told him that she was falling in love. The angel who sang with such unflinching irreverence that it had once brought tears to his eyes.
In the last nine months, it had been far too easy to believe that that Anna had been nothing but an illusion he’d built in his head. Like the same, achingly painful one he’d built as a kid that his mother hadn’t deserted their family when he’d barely been two.
But now, as he looked at the stubborn strength with which she armored herself, the forced smile she wore as she greeted the Raawals, AJ wondered if it had been an illusion after all. If she was truly a grasping woman who was only out to get what she could, which his father had painted her to be, she would have stayed, knowing full well he had connections and wealth, with the highest-grossing music label in the country in the palm of his hand.
And yet, she’d still run away. Even this guest appearance in his life today was because Virat Raawal had demanded she sing for the biopic. If there was one thing he knew about Anna absolutely, it was her love of music, and that she dreamed of singing for such a blockbuster as this one was going to be.
So why stay away if not because she was guilty? Why hide for nine months instead of telling him the truth?
AJ rubbed his cheek and watched his wife laugh when Virat cracked a joke.
It was time to find out why Anna had walked out on him. And if she wasn’t the woman he’d first thought her, it was time to move on with his life.
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