In the entire ballroom, no other woman had demanded his gaze so fervently.
Hundreds of women flocked around him, and yet, the innocent and graceful face of one woman held him captivated.
"So Prince Arrrnavvvv…." drooled one woman…"I hear that your father is insisting you make a declaration as to who you want to marry?"
Arnav's thoughts were interrupted by the smarmy woman, one of many who was trying to land herself the title of 'Princess'.
His dark expression returned…"Yes."
The woman batted her eyelashes and took a step closer…"Always with the one word answers...I too am willing to answer with only one word, should you ever ask me a question."
Arnav, who was getting more frustrated with each word that dripped from the woman's mouth, quickly turned to her…"If you will please excuse me."
The lady nodded, but licked her lips, trying to temp him into considering her for a bride.
"I HATE this…" he brooded furiously…
As he strode away, his eyes once again sought out the new attendant…
Her dark eyes that fluttered nervously, her dark hair that was tied back pristinely…
And he saw her.
She walked with a gentle sway of her hips, one that only sparked forbidden images in his head.
Of all the woman that were in the room, all the beauties who were adorned with jewels and makeup, all the 'politially correct' suitors, he had to be drawn to a maid.
Of all people.
He rolled his eyes, hating his lack of restraint and control.
He never allowed a woman to hold his attention, and he wasn't going to start now.
"Prince Arnav!" screeched another sequin-clad lady…
He turned to see a raven haired temptress approach him…
She was stunningly beautiful, curves in all the right places, and breasts that jutted out to press against his chest as edged up close…
"Goodevening Lavanaya…" Arnav's voice was low as he greeted her.
"When do you make your decision?"
He quirked his brow, feeling sick of her already…"I have to make it within 48 hours."
"I see," she exhaled, making sure her breath wafted over his cheek…"well...you certainly have your pick...anyone who you want…"
At that moment, he saw her again, slowly stepping past, keeping her eyes low…
Arnav straightened, not realizing he had spoken his thoughts aloud…
Lavanaya narrowed her eyes…"What do you mean, not anyone?"
Arnav felt a headache start to throb in his temples…
What was this power that maid held over him!?
He'd only JUST set eyes on her, and yet it was as though she held an antidote to all that he was suffering from.
Women were leering at him from every angle, and yet the one woman whom he wanted to lock eyes with did not meet his gaze.
Lavanaya was nattering on about marriage and not-so-subtley suggestive acts…
Arnav didn't want any of this.
He knew that he HAD to marry before his 30th birthday if he wanted to hold onto his title as Prince, but the thought of marrying ANY woman who was of his class appaled him.
He recalled his father's speech, one that had been drilled into him since his 25th birthday.
"You will marry. You will choose a woman of class, fit for royalty. If you do not, the punishment it death. And no one, including those of the royal blood, escapes the punishment."
Arnav knew that if he didn't choose a woman of stature, that he would lose his life.
But the thought of marrying any woman in the room he stood in felt entirely abhorrent.
Sure he could bed them easily.
Fucking a willing flirt would be no feat at all.
And he knew it wouldn't be love.
That is why he organized this event, to pick a random girl out of the crowd to marry.
A voice that sounded like divine music pierced his soul…
Brought back to the moment, he looked before him…
There she stood.
The woman who had every power to shatter his control.
And he didn't even know her name…
"Ohhhhh more champagne!!" Lavanya cooed as she lifted a glass from the tray the maid was holding…"The drinks are simply superb Arnav…."
Arnav's eyes widened as the maid's eyes flashed with an emotion he couldn't place…
Lavanaya drank the contents of the glass down, and quickly grabbed another…"I can show you just how much fun life with me can be…"
As she downed more champagne, Arnav's eyes were still fixed onto the angelic woman before him…
But even as his heart beckoned to her, his eyes held a cold distain for anyone who could unman him.
And this was one person who could.
The maid felt the prince's eyes on her.
She could feel his cold glare hovering over her like a dark cloud.
"...there's no more…" Lavanaya whined like a child…
Her voice was grating on his nerves…
He was just about to excuse himself when Lavanaya dropped the glass to the tray in the maid's hands..."GO! Get more!"
Arnav's head snapped up, instantly seeking out the girl's reaction.
She was shocked...frozen in place.
"What's wrong with you, you idiot servant!!!"
Arnav automatically stood between the maid and Lavanaya…"You need to quiet down." he warned angrily…
"Your servants are incompetant!"
Lavanaya's mother was pushing her way through the crowd, rushing to her drunken daughters side.
"Get a hold of yourself! Stop it this minute!" the older woman grumbled, and looked apolegetically at Arnav…"I am so so sorry, I will take her home this minute."
The entire time, Arnav stood protectively in front of the young maid, as if shielding her not only from Lavanaya,but from the belittling glares of the guests.
As Lavanaya's mother dragged her away, he was instantly surrounded with other crawling suitors, trying to show off their worth…
He began to pull at his collar, feeling as though he would explode with rage…
Turning around, he saw that the girl his heart was looking for, had slipped away…
"Who is she?" Arnav growled furiously as he yanked at his tie...
Arnav's attendant looked questioningly towards him…"I do not know. She came here looking for work. Some family issues, and she needs money…"
"Has she been here long? I haven't seen her before tonight…"
The servant stood tall as he answered, "She started tonight, and is probably being fired this moment."
Arnav's expression changed to one of disgust…"Fired!? Why!? What did she do!?"
His servant was confused…"Y...you KNOW why Sir. She was part of the scene that took place between Miss Lavanaya and yourself. No servant is ever kept on unless they basically go unnoticed."
"But that doesn't apply to her!"
The man was now utterly bewildered…"May I ask why Sir?"
Arnav opened his mouth to reply, but no words came out.
The truth was, he had no idea why.
He had merely watched her serve drinks the entire night, and already she held more importance than lifelong rules and traditions?
The servant was now speechless…
Arnav shot him a look, not sure if he was angrier at himself, or at the girl's power over him…"DO AS I SAY!"
The man nodded, and quickly disappeared.
Now alone, Arnav was immediately at war.
"She needs money? Family issues? Fired?"
Arnav inhaled sharply at the memory of the girl's wide brown eyes…
Upon first sight of her, he'd instantly wanted to be closer to her, to search her eyes…
"It's good that she's getting fired…" he muttered to himself…
With his impending wedding closing in, he didn't need his loyalties diverted.
"This is no place for her anyway...our rules, our ways...they're too strict…"
Arnav knew that this woman possessed something unique.
He could see uncertainty and trepidation in her eyes…
Beneath that lurked something different, determination.
She was determined to help her family...or herself?
His stomach turned at the thought of how she will be tossed out on the street.
Anger and dismay vied for prominence in his heart…
Finally, Arnav blew out a breath and stalked from the room…
"Please! One more chance, the disturbance was not my fault!"
The old woman who was in charge of the servants paid no heed to anyone's cry.
"Khushi Kumari Gupta, you caused a disturbance. You are not above the rules. You will get your things, and leave immediately."
Khushi fell to her knees before the woman, "Please, please...ONE more chance, I don't care what the duty is, please give me one more chance."
The burly woman, trodded forwards and grabbed Khushi by the back of the neck…"I said get OUT of here!"
Khushi whimpered from the pull and tug on her hair as she continued to plead…"Please! I need the money! My family will be left with nothing! Please, I will do ANYTHING!"
The frumpy woman, opened the door to the servants house and threw Khushi out…
But as Khushi braced herself for a thunderous fall, she instead fell against something hard and firm…
Something warm and protective.
Too shocked and nervous to look up, Khushi remained still, but loud gasps were now echoing around her…
"Prince Arnav!" shrieked the woman in charge, her eyes now drained of all her prior 'power'.
A shiver crawled up Khushi's spine…
Was the prince nearby?
Was the prince here to get rid of her personally?
Khushi made an attempt to move back to see in whose arms she was being held, but the viselike grip only tightened…
Before her wonderings could advance, she heard a stern voice boom out from the man who held her…
"Withdraw to your quarters and return to your business...this woman is no longer your concern."
Arnav felt her gasp against his chest, and his heartbeat quickened…
"Prince, may I please ask-"
"You may not!"
Khushi then heard the mean-spirited woman shuffle back inside and slam the door.
She was now truly frightened of what was going to happen.
Expecting to see a hoard of armoured security when she lifted her head, she was well and truly astonished when her eyes fluttered open…
Darkness, only a few lights shining around…
It was just her...and the Prince.