There’s exactly a month for Remembering You to reach your Kindle devices/apps. Until then, I wanted to share the prologue with you. It’s been added at the end of It Was Always You today, so those who borrow or buy now, going forward will be able to read it there directly.
If you haven’t read It Was Always You, then it would be a good idea to read that first because the characters in Remembering You have been carried over from there. You can read Uzair and Naima’s story here.
Kimmy was packing her bags, feeling sick inside. She sat down on the bed when she realised that her hands were shaking far too much for her to be of any actual use. She had counted so much on the money she was getting at this gig and now that the wedding had been cancelled, she had no idea what she was going to do.
She stared at her hands for a moment, trying to calm down. Aditi had promised that she would pay her but the look on Aditi’s face from half an hour ago was not very encouraging. She looked quite downcast herself and if that was how the wedding planner felt, as the wedding photographer she had even more reason to worry.
The entire wedding party was in a funereal mood. Kimmy took a deep breath and went up to the look out of the windows. The sight of the ocean stirred something inside and she decided to pack later. She stepped out of her room and went downstairs. She was not staying in one of the fancy villas that had been booked for the bride and her relatives. The hotel building was not bad though but she wanted to smell the ocean.
Aditi had told her that the seaplane would be taking people to Male in batches and she could leave as soon as she was packed. The problem was that their return flights were booked for a day later and the logistics person, the right-hand man who would have done this easily was missing. He was the person the bride was in love with and he had been carted off unceremoniously off the island. Hands in the pockets of her denim shorts, Kimmy walked outside the hotel building and took in deep breaths of the salty air. So, their flight reservations were being changed one by one, although some people wanted to leave the following day as planned and there was just a lot of confusion. She had decided to go back because she was missing her daughter and she only hoped that Aditi would come through and pay her as promised.
She would probably never come back to Maldives, she thought. Unless there was another destination wedding and what were the chances of that happening? She found an outcropping of rock and she stood near it, looking as the waves rolled back and forth in frothy masses. It was nearly afternoon and the sun was shining down strongly. Standing here was stupid she realised as she started sweating almost immediately. And the heat was quite relentless.
She was walking back to her room to finish packing, trying not to think of the disastrous events of the day when her eyes glanced over to the villa where Khalil was staying. Her heart ached for him. Poor Khalil, she thought. He didn’t deserve any of this. She wanted to say something to him but she was also embarrassed. What could she possibly tell him? It was best if she left without seeing him. The vibe they shared these days was odd. She had known him as her senior in college and she had not laid eyes on him for nearly a decade until she had come here to shoot his wedding.
She had spent more than one night here in Maldives, trying to understand how he could have changed so phenomenally. He had been a tall and awkward person. Painfully shy with a sort of endearing nerdiness to him that stopped her from making fun of his obvious crush on her. How had he changed into this pure alpha male who looked at her directly without stuttering, who smiled readily, who had looked so deliciously decadent in his wedding finery last night at the mehendi event, she had no clue.
She looked over to the other side, the path that led to the honeymoon villas and she was surprised to see a figure walking away. It was someone tall. Someone who looked a lot like Khalil. Despite not wanting to, she found herself walking in that direction. She wanted to turn around and go back and finish packing. Why was she doing this?
But she didn’t know any of the answers herself as she continued to walk the narrow path that led to the over-the-water villas that were more expensive than the regular villas and she knew one of them had been booked for Khalil and his bride. He must be feeling awful, she thought. Even if it was mortifying, maybe she should talk to him and make him feel better.
The villas came in view and they took her breath away. She knew that reservations for these, cost a bomb. At least 50k per night. The blue-green waters looked languid in the afternoon sun but her eyes were fixed on Khalil who strode up the narrow walkway leading to one of the villas. There was water on both sides and even though it was sunny, there was a light breeze that flapped her shirt a little. She quickened her steps to catch up with him.
He must have heard her come because he turned around and his eyes widened in surprise. She smiled at him weakly as she walked up to join him. After that initial moment, his face had become shuttered and Kimmy felt uncomfortable as she reached him. He didn’t wait for her as he unlocked the door and stepped inside the villa.
Should she leave? But she was here already. Her photographer’s eye was framing photos everywhere and she felt sad she couldn’t take any here.
‘Khalil,’ she said softly and he turned around. He was in the middle of the spacious hall. There was an entire section on the floor where the wood had been replaced by a sheet of glass under which green water swirled. Gentle waves lapped against the wooden columns that the villa was erected on and there was complete silence here except for the water. It was peaceful.
‘Hi,’ he said.
She lowered her eyes for a second to compose herself. ‘Khalil, I’m so sorry,’ she said.
He looked up at her but didn’t say anything as he walked up to one of the windows.
Leave now, Kimmy told herself. You said your bit. But he looks so desolate. That’s not your problem.
‘The strangest thing Kimmy,’ he began and she started. Her name on his lips startled her. ‘I’m actually relieved.’
‘What?’ She walked up to him and he turned to face her. His face was open, and although the pleasant smile she had got used to was no longer there, she felt something tug at her heart.
He shrugged. ‘This was more my parents’ dream than mine. I was just going along with it to humour them,’ he said.
‘Seriously?’ she asked.
He sighed. ‘Naima came and spoke to me this morning, saying why she couldn’t get married to me.’
‘I heard,’ Kimmy said. She felt a little uncomfortable but he continued.
‘Unless I feel that level of conviction about my love for someone, I have no business getting married, Kimmy,’ he said.
‘She could have said something all these days!’ Kimmy burst out. ‘This is so unfair.’
He looked down then and then looked up. ‘It is what it is Kimmy. I’m actually not as broken up about it so I don’t know why you’re so upset.’
Kimmy was startled. ‘No, I…I was feeling bad for you,’ she said. She had to look up to talk to him. He was that tall. She squirmed the slightest bit. She should be going back to her room now.
‘Thank you, but I’m fine. My parents need to get over it though,’ he said as he turned back to look out of the window.
She looked around at the tastefully furnished villa. ‘Was this your…’
He nodded, as he faced her again. ‘Yeah, the honeymoon villa that had been booked for us. God, I’m so relieved I won’t find myself here with an unwilling bride.’
She winced a little and then smiled at that. ‘Khalil, I’m glad you’re okay. You deserve someone who loves you. And you’re an amazing man. I’m sure the girl you marry will be very lucky.’
He didn’t respond to that but he looked at her intently. His eyes were a dark brown, she realised. And they were boring into her. Her heart fluttered.
He stepped closer and she felt the space between them heat up. She panicked the slightest bit at whatever her body was suddenly experiencing.
‘Thank you, Kimmy,’ he said softly. There was nothing predatory in his tone or body language and yet Kimmy felt vulnerable. She had better leave.
‘Goodbye then,’ she said but didn’t move from there.
‘Goodbye,’ he said, but he sounded reluctant. She had to get back and pack, she reminded herself. She had to get on a seaplane back to Male.
Neither of them moved. The atmosphere in the villa had changed, the air thickening with a sense of anticipation. Kimmy looked at Khalil’s face and she wanted him to smile, to do anything to cut through this sudden tension in the air. But he just kept looking back at her.
Leave, she told herself. Instead, she stepped closer, and put her hand on his arm. His skin was warm to her touch, but the tips of her fingers buzzed, as though electricity crackled between them. Shocked, she stepped back, lifting her hand away but he turned to her and put his hand on her wrist. Her pulse leapt. She found that she couldn’t look away from him.
Somehow, they had moved closer imperceptibly. Her heart raced. Her skin misted with sweat and he lifted his hand away to touch her cheek with the pad of his thumb. She felt heat rush up to her face and her lips parted. His eyes weren’t confused but they stared back at her steadily, lowering to look at her lips when she brought out her tongue to moisten them.
He inhaled and Kimmy felt herself magnetically drawn to him, stepping closer until she couldn’t move away. Her breathing had become erratic and this all-too visceral reaction to him was something that she hadn’t experienced in a long time. Maybe never, she thought as her fingers touched the side of his face lightly. The stubble there pricked her fingertips and she traced the lines of his face as an artist would.
He grabbed her hand and brought it lower, to rest over his chest. His heart was racing.
She ought to leave, right now. Instead, she moved her hand away from his chest and held his shoulder, bringing him closer. The space between them became negligible and her lips found his.
He groaned and brought her closer, his hand resting between her shoulder blades as he kissed her like she had never been kissed before. His tongue traced the outline of her lips, sending a shocking arrow of heat through her body. Her mouth opened and his tongue swept in, and she strained to get closer to him. Her breasts tingled and the insistent ache between her legs made her want to climb him like a tree. She ground her body against his and he lifted his head, his eyes wide with desire, his breathing frantic.
She stepped back, shock and horror overcoming her senses. What was she doing? What the fuck was wrong with her?
‘I’m sorry,’ she gasped, her lips trembling. He swallowed but he shook his head. He opened his mouth to say something and Kimmy knew she had to get away. She had to get away before she did something even more stupid. His grip on her had loosened and she pulled away from him as she turned around and ran.
Read the first book in the Destination Wedding Series - It Was Always You here.