Authors: Ruchi Vasudeva
The man of her Bollywood dreams
Winning the chance to meet the ultimate Bollywood heartthrob, Zaheer Saxena, is just what Vishakha needs to take her mind off her recent humiliationâbeing jilted the week before her wedding! And when gorgeous Zaheer offers to be her fake fiancÃ©, the chance to save face with her family is just too temptingâ¦.
It's a deal that benefits them bothâZaheer is warding off any unwanted female attention until his next film is finishedâbut can Vishakha trust herself not to hope that her dream fiancÃ© for a day could turn into forever?
Bollywood FiancÃ© for a Day
For my family
I am because you are
Table of Contents
Vishakha almost winced as soon as she'd said the words. Not the done thing to point the finger at a super-hot celebrity. Not when it was a Bollywood star you had won a date with. Definitely not when it was Zaheer Saxena, a people's favourite for whom the cheers were still resounding in the audience.
Despite the fact he also happened to be an over-hyped, self-centred ass to bootâ¦
Her fingers curled into her palms. All through the promotional event being held at the seaside Mumbai hotel, annoyance had been building inside her and now it threatened to spill over.
Breathing in, she glanced away from him, to find her vision filled with the huge blow-up image of the famous star that dominated the backdrop of the stage. She couldn't look anywhere without seeing him. All around the place banners hung blazoned with pictures of him in his typical aviatored look, along with the title âDream Date'.
She nearly snorted. This was no dream date for her. Far from it. She wouldn't be here if her friends hadn't insisted she fill out the questionnaire for the contest. She didn't personally go for the kind of muscle-flexing, leg-kicking action films he specialized in. As her swooning buddies often said, well, who went to see them for the action? But she'd always replied that she'd never be impressed by all that brawny machismo.
She was even less impressed now. For his convenience, the said date had been reduced to a mere five-minute stage appearance. She knew it was scant use losing her temper with him now, with the programme over and the officials and representatives already moving offstage. But it rankled that she would have to return home with the insult of a null and void prize for the contestâin addition, her friends would be disappointed and outraged on her behalf and she would have to deal with the endless discussions about it.
âIn case you're upsetâ¦' he had started to say when he'd first approached her, catching her disgruntled look.
She hadn't been able to hold back and had interjected, âOf course I'm upset. You're late!'
âSo I am. By almost two hours,' Zaheer Saxena, her âdream date', agreed in smooth, sensual tones. At his most suave.
Her glossed lips parted in surprise. That was justâ¦wow! Was he actually trying to charm her into forgetting his incredibly bad manners in leaving her hanging about for so long?
He stood towering over her, hazel eyes mocking her. She clamped her mouth shut and gave him an irritated glare but the effect was lost as flashbulbs popped, making her blink.
Taking hold of her elbowâand advantage of her momentary distractionâhe led her off the stage, on the way gesturing to the manager of the affair, who snapped to attention as though bee-stung, to keep away the paparazzi, who were eager for more shots.
As soon as they were free from the crowd and he let her go, she turned on him.
âHow can you say “almost two hours” like that, so casuallyâas though it meant nothing to you at all? Have you any idea how many people were kicking their heels here, simply awaiting your pleasure?' The sarcasm slipped in unintentionally.
His mouth tightened slightly but with a brashness that rivalled that of the May breezes sweeping over the Indian landscape, he shrugged carelessly. âI was delayed. Is that a bookable offence?'
! It showed in the supremely confident stance as he stood next to her. Waves of prickling irritation ran up her skin. So he had been voted the most desirable man this side of the Uralsâso what? Did that excuse his lack of manners and consideration for others?
âIt's a moral
to keep people waiting,' she bit out and winced mentally again.
, how prim she sounded. But something about him sent her nerves stinging as if someone had just rubbed a wire brush over them.
âI wasn't aware you gave free lessons on ethics besides treating patients, Vishakha!' he countered in his famous lazy drawl that sent women swooning by the dozens. To aggravate her already heightened indignation, he had called her by her first name and dropped her doctor's title without even bothering to ask for permission.
But then people like him didn't wait for permission. That arrogant superiority oozing from him said quite clearly he knew what he wanted. Knew exactly where he stood and claimed that position with utter supremacy.
She shook her head mentally at her fanciful notion. But he was the kind who'd send any woman into a daydreamâ¦
Clean-cut features, so honed and chiselled, they were saved from the chocolate box good looks tag and instantly commanded the description of ruggedly attractive. Wheat skin tanned to gold. Dark, longish hair streaked with lighter colour that gave it depth and interest. And that sensually full lower lip now humorously curved. He practically made the air sizzle where he stood. Rather than a fake, computer-enhanced image sighed over by millions of women, he was now almost frighteningly real. Flesh and blood. Rippling muscles were stunningly delineated by a short-sleeved black T-shirt as though he were fresh out of the gym. She could almost imagine the scent of a recent workout. He'd eschewed formal wear and settled for black jeans to go with his T-shirt but, even dressed so casually, he was an undeniable presence. Forceful and male. Not someone to be ignored.
What a pity that aura wasn't backed up by a kind nature. She sent him a disapproving glance. âIt's called good manners but obviously you haven't heard about those.'
To her annoyance, his smile widened rather than dissipated at her words, the insult slipping off him like sweat from his toned body. âAre you sure being a moral studies teacher wasn't your first career option instead of being a medico? I think I can bet with reasonable confidence your patients get well out of the sheer desire to escape your lecturing.'
Horrible man! She bit the inside of her lip as an involuntary spurt of laughter built in her chest, trying to crush the untimely appreciation of his wicked sense of humour. The curve of his mouth deepened, telling of his obvious enjoyment that he hadn't missed the fact she'd almost laughed. His eyes invited her openly to join in and that was really the last straw. She turned away from him to get her control back, her mouth firming.
Really, she had to take this from him? After everything she'd had to put up with in order to meet him this evening, it was insultingâ¦
First, as part of the competition âprize', she'd spent hours at the beauty salon of the deluxe hotel effecting her swan formation. She'd had to submit to the layering of a ton of make-up and a change from jeans and a loose top to the halter-neck blue chiffon gown she was now wearing. Her idea of fun? Not exactly. She much preferred an evening at home in disreputably old but incredibly comfortable pyjamas. The gown had been a must-wear as the occasion had demanded a âformal' appearance. Zaheer Saxena, in his casual clothes and trainers, made it clear what he thought of
Did he give a damn about anything at all? she wondered curiously. His oodles of charm probably made sure he got his own way everywhere with absolutely everyone. A fact he'd made use of very effectively this evening. A celebrity could be excused quite a lot, but surely not making everyone wait for ever for him to appear!
had been close to tearing her hair out. And she bet it wasn't blessings for him that she'd heard other people murmuring under their breath. Yet, as though by remote control, he'd magically changed the discontented frowns to anticipatory smiles.
A thrill like an electric charge had gone around the room the moment the news had come in that Zaheer Saxena was making an impromptu helicopter landing on the hotel rooftop. In seconds there had begun an exodus of people to the roof, the paparazzi off like bullets shot from a gun to catch his arrival. Live entertainment not to be missed. After all, wasn't this the era of reality TV?
God knew how he'd got past the civil aviation laws but he'd certainly proved he had crowd pulling power. Like a conjuror, he had hidden with the left hand while performing with the right. In the excitement of his sudden sky drop, everyone had forgotten how long and how inconsiderately he'd made them wait. At one level, Vishakha could just marvel. As far as cleverness went he should be crowned king. Definitely a master of psychology. While on the other handâ¦Her lips turned down at the corners, her eyebrows coming together in a frown. He had finally arrived and everything was fine as far as he was concerned. The hours that people had spent pacing the carpet had been brushed aside.
Did a simple âsorry' cover it all, though?
She had had enough of people who saw life through a pinhole camera that just focused on their own convenience.
Wasn't it because of such people that she was here? She'd been given the questionnaire for the contest when she went to buy her extravagant engagement ensemble from a high end boutique. She'd won with her friends' help because they'd been so adamant that she enter. For all their insistence, she had had no intention of attending this date. How could she? At the time she'd entered, the date would have fallen less than a week from her wedding day. When she'd tucked away the colourful invitation in her purse, she hadn't dreamed that one day she'd be desperately grabbing at the opportunity to escape from an intolerable situation created by people she trusted.
Her focus returned to the man beside her. Cool as menthol shampoo, he had the impudence to lift dark eyebrows in mock query. She almost relaxed in the face of that overwhelming charisma, then she swiftly compressed her unwarily relaxing mouth, forcing herself to meet his gaze stonily. Not that he looked even perfunctorily embarrassed by either her chilly stare or the pointed discussion of his late arrival. Look at him teasing her about her patients and her supposed sermons!
âAmusing to hear your theories,' she retorted. âBut, far from making fun of me, you should be searching for words to frame an apology.'
He snorted. âStop reminding me of my schoolteacher.' His glance encompassed her. âLooks can be so deceptive. Who'd have thought beneath thatâ¦' the glance became a raking look, sweeping her up and down ââ¦seductive dress, you'd be such a starchy teacher type.'
âHow dare you?' Vishakha froze, unable to find rude enough words to tell him off.
talking of deceptive looks? What a laugh. âDo you even realize howâ¦how insensitive you are?'
, she sounded not just schoolmarmy but a wailing bundle of nerves as well. How had that happened?
âPlease spare me,' the object of her impotent fury drawled. Then, probably fearing she'd get all excited at the âplease', he added, âIt isn't the first time I've listened to a woman's whining and it's probably not the last. But you're not likely to make a dent in my conscience if any other couldn't sinceâ' he drew up his arm and made a show of looking at his gold-strapped watch ââyou've just about five more seconds left with me.'
Oh, butâ¦butâ¦Vishakha clamped her mouth shut and turned away. Really, there was nothingâ
âyou could say to someone like that.
And yes, she
sounded whiny, she acknowledged, nearly closing her eyes in shame. She must be more upset than she'd thought to overreact like this.
She'd come for a brief escape from her own personal nightmare but even here her distress accompanied her. The thoughts she'd tried to leave behind started filtering in like mosquitoes sneaking in through the wire mesh to sting her. If things had been different, she would be panicking over last-minute wedding dress fittings, maybe fussing over salon appointments, wailing over the state of her hair, doing all the anxious shrieking due a bride.
Except she wouldn't
the bride. Her nails dug into her palms.
âFocus on the camera,' Zaheer advised, taking her elbow and turning her to face the lens. Reluctantly she complied. The hovering photographer picked up the cue and clicked away a succession of snaps. Of course objection was out of the question. Media coverage was an integral part of the affair. She'd heard the hugely popular competition had attracted some juicy sponsors and generated quite a bit for the charitable cause it had been arranged for.