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Authors: Suleikha Snyder

Spice and Smoke

BOOK: Spice and Smoke
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For M, T, H and E…not only great letters of the alphabet, but also fantastic friends. And to Lady Jane's Salon, where romance is celebrated and story ideas bloom like prize roses.

Part One

Bombay Dreams



Mumbai was hotter than he’d remembered. More like Hell than a bustling metropolis. Even New York in the summertime was nothing compared to this. Sweat dripped down the back of his neck, making the collar of his starched, white shirt even itchier. But Avinash didn’t dare move, in case the smile he’d practiced in the mirror went even the tiniest bit awry. Everything was riding on this meeting. He didn’t have the guys anymore (the guys…
.)… He didn’t have the band. He had

The executive looked at him. No,
him. As if there was something terribly important on the other side that only he could see.

It was then that Avi remembered his father stood in the doorway. No doubt, they were making some sort of silent communication with just the slight movements of their eyebrows.
Mera beta ka saath kuch kijiye
, Dad was saying.
Do something with my son.
He’s an embarrassment.
A freak.
Minutes ticked by. Until Mr. Prakash barked out an abrupt laugh.

Arre, chhoro, beta
,” he said, finally…as though they were meeting in some auntie or uncle’s living room and not a record company’s posh conference room. “Forget this dream of being in a band.” As though it was something Avi could just put out, like a light. “You’ve got a movie star’s look.
Hero banja.

A hero?
He laughed until he realized Mr. Prakash was serious, his eyes narrowed, sizing him up like he was a prize goat being taken to ceremonial slaughter.

,” the man murmured, almost to himself. “
You’ll do.”

“I’ll do what?”

The narrow eyes were joined by a wide smile…revealing straightened white teeth that Prakash could not possibly have been born with. It was like Avi was about to be engulfed by a very shiny shark. “Anything asked of you.”

He could feel his dad’s eyes boring holes into his back. The unspoken judgment (unspoken only because it had been spoken one hundred times already). Warning him that the animal inside him would be tamed…no, not tamed, broken…if he didn’t find a way to run. It made the decision easy.

“Okay. I’ll do it.”

He’d be a hero for millions. Billions, even. Maybe then, and only then, being worthless to one impossible man would not matter so much.



Sanjoy and Roma Chaudhury had ruled the Golden Age of Bengali cinema, starring in a string of superhits before taking their dream team to Bombay and making a splash that rippled out well into the 1970s. But there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that their greatest collaboration was their daughter, Trishna. Chief believer was Trishna herself. Even at fourteen, she knew she was destined for greatness.

Everything she wanted, she got. “Papa,
mujhe ek mynah bird dedo
?” Lo, a mynah was gifted to her on her fifteenth birthday, already trained to trill her name and say, “I love you.”

“Mama, can I have a car and driver? Please?”
, she had Rehan, who would take her any place she desired. Her entrance into the industry was magic as well—her first commercial a Lux beauty soap advert with Mama when she was just seven years old. She was offered her first Lakme contract at barely sixteen.

But when it came time to audition for
A Handful of Stars
, Trishna knew she had to win it on her own. No one, simply
no one
, was going to say her mummy-daddy had packaged her a role on a serial and served it up as a gift.

She waited with ten other girls…all of them glammed-up like they were about to walk the red carpet. Her yellow, frilly frock stood out like a mango
on a tray of champagne. Her thick, prop spectacles and schoolgirl’s braids caused whispers and sneers.
“Look at her, Roma and Sanjoy’s daughter. Who does she think she is?”

The best.

was who Trishna thought she was. She was going to prove it. She had the part locked. When the door to the audition theater opened, she walked in knowing that. Then she met her scene partner, her bubbly character’s big brother, Harsh Mathur, and she knew she had
locked as well.

He was not that much older than her. Maybe eighteen or nineteen. He was tall and beautiful, with distinctive, light eyes—eyes like the father of modern Indian cinema himself, Raj Kapoor. When he saw her silly frock and her specs, his weary expression turned into a brilliant smile. “Hullo.”

“Good morning,
!” she chirped, greeting him in character before deliberately stumbling and spilling her script pages everywhere.

It startled him. But not so much that he didn’t catch on. “
Choti bahein
, you are so crazy. What are we going to do with you?” He knelt to help her, his laugh echoing across the room and enveloping the producers who were already fixed in their seats by the impromptu show.

Their hands brushed, and Trish felt suddenly lightheaded.

Papa, Mama, mujhe Harsh Mathur chahiye.

I want him.

She was going to marry this boy someday.

After all, everything she wanted, she always received.

Chapter One

The ceremonial coconut shattered into pieces against the floor of the dais, and flashbulbs popped in tandem, capturing the auspicious sign that everything beyond the film’s first shot would be a success. Trishna tried not to shade her eyes from the glare, focusing on a spot on the far wall of the set. Cracks spider-webbed out from a hole, and if she were to squint—which she wouldn’t, because she’d look half-blind in all the photos—she would probably see a tiny lizard peering out from the gap.

A “
”, Avi had called it when they readied themselves this morning. Noise and silly business. “Hollywood films don’t have a
,” he’d complained, finishing tying his tie and then moving on to helping her with the draping of her sari.

“You know what else Hollywood films don’t have, big shot?” She’d undone his tie, shoving him backwards towards their bed. “You.”

Avi had tangled one huge hand in her hair while his other unwound her sari, leaving her in nothing but blouse and petticoat. Silk pooled to the floor at her feet, like the softness already gathered between her thighs.

If they were ten minutes late, so be it. The
would wait.

The Raj
was Govind Joshi’s baby, his latest historical blockbuster, but only when she and Avi had signed on had the real buzz begun. They were Mumbai’s newest power couple, Bollywood’s sweethearts despite being so very spicy. They hadn’t done a film together since their marriage six years ago, and it was a coup to get them to sign on for Joshi’s project. So if that meant delaying the first shot…which was just an establishing interior of the old palatial mansion anyway…then the whole crew would just have to deal.

Their fashionably late, and slightly mussed, entrance had only been marred by one thing: two stragglers who had come even later.

Trish’s gaze flickered across the stage, where Harsh Mathur and Michael Gill were shaking hands with the music director. Avi’s hand tightened in hers, his thumb tracing filthy words on her skin. It was a trick he’d perfected over the years, smiling beatifically while spelling out, “I want to fuck you” against her palm or her wrist. Only this time, it wasn’t “I want to fuck you”, it was, “I want to fuck him”.

Him. Michael Gill. A model-turned-actor, he was half-British and half-Indian. People always seemed surprised at how fluent he was in Urdu and Hindi, not realizing he’d lived most of his life in Punjab. Those in the industry practically forgot he was English at all. His dark brown hair and dark eyes weren’t a dead giveaway, and his tan was just as much natural as it was a product of too much surfing. But he was a casting director’s dream, because he could play the Hindi-speaking Englishman with just as much ease as he could the fully Indian hero.

He was stunning; there was no denying it. He was also gay. There was no denying that either. Not with her husband sketching out his lurid list of sexual demands. But even her own pulse jumped at how Michael’s jeans hung tantalizingly low on his hips, as though they were about to fall off. Clothes were an afterthought on Michael Gill, and a crime against his body. Funny how not a single designer who’d clamored for him to walk their runway had figured that out.

Trish squeezed Avi’s fingers in warning. “Don’t be obvious, Avinash,” she chided as they crossed to greet their costars.

If Michael was stunning, then Harsh was beautiful. Green eyed, with long, black hair, it was he whom most people assumed was mixed and gay. He had the face of an angel and the body of a god.
magazine had conducted a poll of the hottest Bollywood heroes, and he’d easily beaten all the Khans, Michael and Avi to land the top spot. Harsh was the polar opposite of what his name meant in English, and the very definition of its Hindi meaning: happiness and delight. He was kind and generous. He never gossiped, never was the
of gossip. He’d opened a girls’ school in his family’s ancestral village and funded a scholarship for low-caste orphans. He was practically a saint.

He’d always been too much of a saint for a sinner like her.

Her chest ached with sudden memory, and she shoved the pain deep down, back where it belonged. “Don’t be obvious, Trishna,” Avi mimicked, brushing a chaste kiss across her temple.

She wasn’t obvious. Of course not. She was a professional. When she warmly extended her hand to the man she’d been in love with since she was sixteen years old, it didn’t shake at all. Neither did her eyes betray what she was thinking, what she was

The scenario: 1973’s
. The characters are locked in a room, and the key has been lost. Can they resist the urge to give in to their teenage passion? Do they even want to resist?

Trishna crawls across the bed, a playful grin on her lips, and Harsh backs up, comic panic exaggerating his features. When he hits the headboard, he realizes he has nowhere to escape to.
“Mujhse dosti karoge?”
she purrs, like coquettish Bobby in the film.
Would you like to make friends with me?
But she wants more than that. She has always wanted more than that.

She straddles his hips, pulling his shirt from the waistband of his skinny corduroys, and bends to lick every centimeter of skin she uncovers. Then her hair spills forward, across the taut washboard of his abdomen, and her warm mouth engulfs him. She is a quick study at such things, learning the rhythm and the exact pressure, swirling her tongue around the head of him. Until he is begging her to stop…no, for more…no, to stop…no, more. Until he knows nothing except how much he needs her and he is cursing the foolish self-restraint he’s been operating under thus far.

When she has him beaten, wringing every last drop of pleasure from within him, Trish rocks back on her heels, swiping the back of her hand across her mouth and smiling with triumph.

Harsh’s glassy eyes meet hers, and he tells her he is sorry. He is sorry he waited this long to accept her offer of friendship…and he offers her forever.

Chapter Two

Avinash Kumar was staring at him. Unabashedly. While his wife, Trishna Chaudhury, was standing right next to him. It was either the ballsiest move on the planet, or the rumors about the two of them having a rather liberal interpretation of their marriage vows were true. Michael didn’t know what to make of it, but the man’s dark eyes were stripping him bare in front of all and sundry. His skin prickled with awareness.

Michael had been luckier than most. The industry protected its own, so stardom and a few well-placed bribes had allowed him to live his life as an open secret. Though the country had only recently made major strides in decriminalizing homosexuality, it had always been a safe place to walk around hand in hand with another bloke. Such things were not “gay” as the West defined it, but simply gestures of affection and camaraderie. The release of
had helped, too. A romantic comedy about friends only
at being gay had sparked a national conversation about sexual identity. In the three years since the film had become a superhit, even villagers fresh from the rice fields could joke and wink and say boys were just engaging in “a little

BOOK: Spice and Smoke
13.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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