Blood spurted from his shoulder.
"Genius!" the other man said with a laugh. "What did you expect? I told you to shut up! Next time maybe you'll do as I say…or maybe you want to try that for a second time. I think maybe you need to have another lesson." His finger posed above the trigger, ready to shoot again.
Khushi drew in a frantic breath, trying to keep from falling apart altogether.
She could feel the splatters of warm blood against her shoulder. Nikhil sprang from the bed in an attempt to strangle the stranger who just shot him.
"You bas***d! I'm going to…"
"Stop and think about what you're doing," the stranger said.
"Think about it. I have a gun trained at your head. How much do you want to die right here? On the other hand, I might like to take a pathetic excuse for a man like you out of civilized society. Unbelievable!"
"Who are you?" Nikhil demanded. His fingers coiled and uncoiled into white-knuckled fists.
"Yours Sincerely, Murder..." His gun-free arm waved toward Khushi.
'Murder' looked down at Nikhil..."I don't care if you bleed out right here and now. So this is where we bid you farewell..."
Khushi was hauled off the mattress and dragged out of the room...
"KHUSHI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Arnav screamed...
As Arnav approached the hotel room door, he saw it already broken through...
Bloodied footprints marked the walkways...
"Oh f**k NO!" he ran...
He froze under the doorframe...
"Arn..Arnav...help..." Nikhil groaned as his gaze zoned in on Arnav...
Arnav walked forwards and crouched down next to his traitorous friend...
"you...too late...'murder'..." it was then, that Nikhil passed out...
As Arnav got to his feet, he heard the screeches of a car outside...
His heart told him that he had to follow...
Without looking back, he bolted from the room in pursuit...
Arnav sped off in the patrol car...
Gripping the radio, he sent out a message for the police...
"Detective Nikhil, Asshole of the Force is at the hotel. He was shot when I found him. I am now following a brown 4 door sedan...you have the gps details for this car, you figure it out."
Khushi's arms ached as she clung to the seat of the car...
Everytime the car hit a bump in the road, she would hope that she'd be thrown from the car...
"What do you WANT with me! I don't even KNOW who you are!!!"
'Murder' snickered...'Oh...you know me Mrs. Raizada...You've known me for a long long time..."
"NO! I DON'T! I REALLY DON'T! WHAT HAVE I DONE TO MAKE YOU HATE ME SO!!!!!!!"
Slamming his foot on the brakes...
Yanking her forcefully out of the car, he threw her up against a tree..."What's happened Khushi...You don't even RECOGNIZE friends from your past...not even a friend who you WERE betrothed to!?!?!"
"Wh...What?" Khushi barely moved...
"Still nothing!? My mother was friends with YOUR mother! They always said we would marry! And then, just because they DIE, you move away! And forget all about me!? I had to track you down only to find that you were MARRIED!"
"A...Ajay?" khushi whispered...
"OOOh so you DO have room in your head for someone other than yourself!"
He pushed back from her and took out his gun and aimed it at her chest...
"Say goodbye...My Khushi!" Ajay grinned...
"DROP IT! I HAVE A SHOT AIMED AT YOUR HEAD! GET AWAY FROM MY WIFE NOW!!!!!"
Keeping his gun aimed at Khushi, Ajay turned...
"Well, Arnav Singh Raizada..." he smiled...
"I said to get that gun away from her!"
Shaking his head, he smirked..."I don't think so...I planned disappearing myself after finishing her...so any threat you have, is of no consequence to me..."
"Arnavji..." Khushi's whisper found it's way to his heart...
His eyes quickly glanced at her..."Sweetheart...shhh...I'm here now..."
"SWEETHEART?! Oh he's a sweet talker...well Khushi you really got a good one...too bad you won't be leaving this spot..."
"Drop your weapon!" Arnav yelled
"Arnavji...Please...Please leave...You once gave up yourself for my safety...Please let me do the same..."
Ajay's eyes became wild with anger at the sound of Khushi's plea...
"Well...you heard the lady..." he gripped the gun and straightened his back...
Arnav could see the intention in his eyes.
"No!" Arnav shouted.
Two short pings shot through the air.
"KHUSHI!" Arnav's body seized up in terror...
He took three steps forward.
"Stay! or you won't be alive to help her!" Ajay's gun leveled back at him...
Arnav stopped...his body shook...
Khushi lay on the ground...blood pooling around her.
Her eyes stared at him, blinking and unfocused.
"Khushi...Kh...Khushi Hang on..."
"God, what the hell was am I supposed to do?"
The sound of sirens quickly threw Ajay off his game...
Taking the chance, Arnav flew at him, slamming his fist against his jaw...
Another shot sounded and ice burned across his upper arm.
Arnav knocked the gun away...
A red storm raged through him as he squeezed Ajay's throat.
"Police! Step away from him Mr. Raizada!!!"
As Arnav released him, and flew to Khushi...
Her blood was now drenching her clothes and pooling on the ground around her...
Someone had lit a fire in her chest.
Khushi licked the side of her mouth, the coppery taste of blood thick on her tongue.
Someone was screaming.
What was she doing down here?
She didn't remember falling, didn't remember tumbling down the steps.
The world grayed around her.
She could feel the blood seeping out of her, could see the smear of it across the tree above her...
Her chest no longer burned. It was cold, so cold...
As though death breathed over her...
The last sound she heard was Arnav calling her name...
"Khushi...Oh God...no..." He shook his head, clearing his vision, shoving the nausea down.
"Khushi..." Arnav fell to his knees beside her, and her blood soaked into his trousers. He searched for a pulse, and held her hand, noting her fingers were like ice.
"Mr. Raizada! The ambulance is on the way."
"Please, God, please." Her head lolled as he tried again to find a heartbeat, the flesh of her neck warm.
Barely, it was barely there, and too damn fast.
"Hang on, Sweetheart. Just hang on."
A gurgling sound came from her throat.
He ripped her shirt open.
She caught a bullet in the lung.
Think, he had to think.
On a muttered oath, he fumbled and carefully pulled her dupatta from her and covered the wound to keep the air from escaping.
No sooner had he done that, then the Ambulance arrived...his body shaking so bad he could barely move out of their way...
He listened in horror as the Paramedic spoke..."She's got a sucking chest wound from a gunshot at . . ." He rattled off the address.
Pain shot through his head.
"Ambulance is en route now. She's got a pulse, low BP. I need a crash cart and at least four units of blood ready at. And make damn certain there's a vascular surgeon standing by ready to take her to the OR..."
People moved and rushed around him.
Arnav followed as his hand had never left hers...
It was 10 minutes before he spoke...
He sat in back of the ambulance...
"Barely." Sirens blared. "She's alive for now..."
Arnav was as furious as he was frightened..."SHE BETTER f**kING STAY!!!"
The paramedic only nodded, knowing his fear...
"Please, God, just don't let her die. Just don't let her die."
They pulled up at the hospital and the sirens pierced the air.
Arnav ran beside the gurney, latched on to it near the head.
Khushi was lost beneath a mound of blankets and machines.
The hose leading into her mouth obscene to him, even as he knew the intubation helped save her life.
She'd probably need a chest tube, and if the bleeding didn't stop . . .
He couldn't think of that.
Gently he leaned over and kissed her forehead. "I'm sorry, I'm so damn sorry."
One of the EMTs put her hand on his arm.
"BP's dropping." Machines whined and blipped.
They raced her through the ER doors and down a hallway.
"She's coding," someone said.
Damned if she would...he held her hand tighter... "You are not going to die on me Khushi! Hang on please!!! Don't you dare die on me."
"BP's fifty over forty. Gave her two units of AB negative, one unit saline . . ."
The shouted words stabbed at him.
"Trauma one," another voice yelled.
Arnav started to follow them into the crash room, but a nurse shot an arm up to stop him.
"You can't go in there."
"The hell I can't. That's my wife. I'm her husband!!!!"
"Be that as it may, you know the rules."
"f**k the rules!!!!!"
"Arnav..." He turned at the familiar voice.
The doctor who haunted his dreams...the doctor who operated on his mother's gunshot stood there in scrubs.
Arnav fisted his hands.
"Look, I won't say I know what you're going through, but we've got to stabilize her and get her into surgery. You'll do us no good in there."
He laid a hand on Arnav's shoulder and it was all Arnav could do not to push him away.
"You'll be more help to her, to us, if you stay out here, answer questions and talk to the police..."
Through the glass panels he could see them working on her, her head lolling on the gurney, blood soaking her bra.
Arnav knew the man was right.
But he felt so helpless.
Closing his eyes, he nodded. "Fine, I'll stay out of your way. But I'm not moving from here. I've a right to stand here."
He opened his eyes, daring the other doctor to argue.
"I'll hold you to that and keep you updated. I'll let you know when we take her up to surgery. Get someone to look at that laceration on your arm and head. You look like you have a concussion." The door swung shut behind the doctor.
Arnav didn't give a damn about his arm or his head.
All he cared about was his wife.
Masks moved as orders were shouted, instruments clanged, doctors and nurses hurrying around.
He had no idea how long he stood there...
All he saw, all he thought about was Khushi, her pale bleeding body lying on that table, as he trusted others to save her.
The familiar hospital noises around him were piercing his soul with every squeak, clatter, yell or cry.
A nurse had finally pulled him away long enough to stitch his arm where the bullet had grazed him and give him a dose of antibiotics.
She'd wanted him to stay in bed, he had a concussion.
Arnav couldn't have cared less. S
omeone had come in to try and ask them questions and he'd answered what he could.
He turned back to look in the trauma room.
The doctors and nurses worked furiously, their hands covered with her blood.
He couldn't leave. God, he couldn't leave.
His eyes stung and he swiped viciously at them.
He spotted something, he knew what was coming and God, there was just no way he could watch that.
Closing his eyes, he leaned his head back against the wall, as another useless tear slid down his cheek.
God forgive him, he hadn't kept her safe, didn't protect her like he was supposed to.
It felt as if someone reached in his chest and squeezed his heart until he couldn't breathe.
He looked through the glass, and what color was left in his face fled.
"Oh f**k..." Arnav glanced into the room to see the surgeon using the rib spreader to hold her chest open to retrieve the bullet...
Bile burned the back of his throat.
They had to stop the bleeding.
They had to stop the bleeding.
In order to save her life, they had to stop the bleeding.
Moaning a curse, he wiped his eyes again and forced himself to look away...
Soon, the cheif of police stood beside him..."How in the ever living hell can you stand here and watch that?"
Arnav bit down till pain radiated up his jaw. "I can't leave. I just can't leave her," he finally managed.
As Arnav turned around, The doctor strode towards him, and he saw a gurney come out of the trauma room and head towards the staff elevators.
"We've managed to stabilize her, and finally to stop the bleeding. It's time to get her to the OR."
The doctor didn't stay, he quickly turned and ran to catch the elevator.
A small amount of relief shot through him...
Not that surgery was without its complications and risks, but it was a step up from where they had been...and a step away from what his mother reached...
Arnav was numb...if he saw the man who did this . . . he'd rip him apart with his bare hands and leave the pieces for someone else to deal with.
Khushi was HIS and someone had dared to harm her...
If it was the last thing he ever did he vowed to find this bas***d and make him pay.
Arnav paced the waiting room.
He'd changed out of his bloody clothes...
By now, everyone was there...
They were waiting on Khushi to come out of surgery.
He stopped again and looked at the clock.
It had been four damn hours and not a word.
Not a single word.
At least the waiting room was empty except for his and her family...
"Chote, come sit down," Anjali said, handing him a cup of water.
"I don't want to sit.. I can't sit."
He took a sip of water and set the cup aside, pacing again.
Whispers and quiet voices drifted around him.
The door squeaked open.
Arnav spun around...
The surgeon stood there, in bloody scrubs, looking exhausted.
The silence was so loud, it breathed.
The doctor ran his hand over his face.
"Arnav, let's sit down."
"Oh, God...No...NO..." Someone helped him into a chair.
"She's still alive, but barely."
Arnav heard the word alive...
"But I'm not certain if she'll make it through the night..."
"She is going to live. She is way too much of a fighter...she will...she has to..."
Nani rubbed his shoulder. "Khushi bitiya will make it, Doctor. I don't doubt it."
Wrinkles creased around her eyes.
Arnav licked his lips."What happened in the surgery?"
"We lost her twice, got her back. You're right in the fact she's a fighter. But her body can only sustain so much shock. With the shooting, blood loss, surgery. . ." His voice trailed off. "And?"
"When—" Arnav cleared his throat. "When can I see her?" He took a deep breath.
"We're getting her set up in Intensive care... You can see her as soon as she's settled."
With that the Doctor walked out of the room.
Arnav stared at the closed door.
He couldn't breathe.
Tears pricked the backs of his eyes and he swallowed.
"Sit down," Garima said, taking his arm.
Arnav sat, buried his face in his hands.
Someone sat beside him. "It'll be okay..." Buaji said, rubbing his back. "It's all going to be okay." Her voice wavered on the end.
Tears leaked, fell into his hands.
Arnav squeezed his own tears back and hugged her...
He knew Khushi was on a respirator... she's have tubes and wires hooked to her...
He didn't know if he could stand to see her like that.
Not Khushi, not his wife.
Arnav stopped in the middle of the hallway and planted his hands on his hips.
The fear was like a snake pit, just waiting to strike and devour.
Barely nodding to the security guards, he shoved open the door and strode into her room.
An ICU nurse was checking vitals.
She only raised her brow. "You're not supposed to be in here."
Arnav couldn't speak...his eyes were locked onto the image behind the nurse...
She smiled softly. "Sit here quietly...talk to her..."
He walked closer to the bed.
The door closed softly.
Gently, he picked up Khushi's hand, noting the I.V. tapped into her vein.
The cardiac monitor beeped the rhythm of her heart rate, the soft whoosh of the respirator reminding him how fragile her situation still was.
As though he could forget.
She had more tubes, wires, and machines attached to her than he cared to see.
Laying his head on the rail, he prayed.
Prayed for God to heal her...
The tears he'd been fighting all day tore through him.
Tears of anger, fear and hope, love, hate, terror and heartache.
Everything collided together in a smashing coalescence of helpless rage.
Finally he lifted his head.
Khushi was still unconscious, and so pale she faded into the white of the pillowcase.
A faint light above glowed down on her.
The blue plastic tubing running into the side of her mouth was obscene even as it kept her alive.
"I'm sorry, Khushi. I'm so sorry." he sighed.
He reached up and brushed a strand of hair away from her forehead.
"Did I . . ." He cleared his throat past the lump lodged there. "Did I ever tell you what I first noticed about you?"
The inhalation of the respirator answered him.
"It was your lips..." He touched her gently on the cheek
His fingers trailed over the bridge of her nose. "And your eyes...You were the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen in my life...and you still are..."
God, how had this happened?
Why had it happened?
"I love you..." He swallowed again, but it did no good.
"You can't leave me." Her hand was cold in his.
"I don't know what . . . I can't imagine life without you in it. I couldn't go on."
What a horrifying thought.
But it had plagued him all day.
Whispering a chill down his spine, icing the blood in his veins. "You have to hang on, to fight. You've got to wake up."
He smiled through his tears... "Soon. But right now, I know you need to rest. To build your strength...so you can talk a lot..." He tried to put some humor in his voice.
"After all, we've got Payal and Akash coming soon..."
Arnav settled in his chair, kept her hand in his.
He began to talk about all the things that they would do together when she woke up...
One sentence turned into another and another.
He couldn't stop talking, so he didn't.
He would have talked all night if a knock on the door hadn't interrupted his quiet musings...
"sorry to interrupt, but your family are leaving and wanted to say goodbye..."
He stood, then leaned over and placed a soft kiss on Khushi's forehead... "I'll be back in a minute...don't start the next conversation without me..."
Anjali hugged him goodbye and told him that they had grilled the doctors and nursing staff for answer..."She is going to make it...I know she will..."
He remained still as he watched his family leave...
As he entered Khushi's room, he continued his talks...he wanted her to know that he was with her...that she was safe...that he wasn't going to leave...
Almost 5 hours later, Arnav had just finished telling her in detail, all their future children's names, when his voice stopped.
Brushing a strand of hair back away from her cheek, he sat up straight, his heart pounding...
Smiling big, he whispered..."Khushi...? Sweetheart..."
The doctor entered...
"She squeezed my hand..."
Arnav looked down at her, the hand holding his faintly tightened again...