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Rishi kissed her forehead. “Because it’s what we do.”

Dimple opened her mouth to argue, but then closed it because she realized he was right. Whether she liked it or not, she did think of her parents when she wanted to make big decisions. They mattered to her, however much she wished it weren’t true.

Rishi pulled back and looked at her. “In this case, in this very specific case, though, I agree with you. I think we should make the decision for ourselves.”

Dimple grinned and leaned in for a kiss. “Good. Then my decision is that you should take off your shirt.”

This moment felt both hard to believe and completely inevitable, if such a thing were possible.

They were each kneeling and facing the other now. Dimple’s eyes were wide, her lips slightly parted. “Do you have . . . ?”

Rishi looked at her, waiting. “Have?” And then realization dawned. She meant a condom. Rishi felt his face flush to match hers. “Yeah, I do.”

When she nodded, Rishi unbuttoned his shirt, his fingers trembling slightly. It wasn’t that he was nervous for Dimple to see him unclothed. It was that this felt like a solid, intractable line they were crossing. There were no take-backs after sex; there was no way to undo how much deeper they were falling into it.

As he let his shirt fall, as he watched Dimple’s eyes rove over his chest and stomach, with her small hands following haltingly close after, Rishi wondered if he should be hesitating more. Should there be more doubt? Should he have argued with Dimple more, to see if this was something she really, really wanted, and something she wouldn’t regret later?

She looked up at him. “You’re unbelievably beautiful,” she whispered, her eyes shining like twin stars.

And all his doubts vanished into the ether.

Rishi took off her glasses with a gentleness that made her want to cry; his fingers barely grazed the sides of her face. Folding them, he set them neatly on the nightstand before turning back to her.

Reaching behind her, he gathered her close and unzipped her kurta top. He paused, hands on her shoulders, and looked at her, a question in his eyes. Dimple nodded, biting her lower lip, her heart thundering so hard she was sure her chest was jumping with each beat.

When her bra lay beside Rishi’s bed, her jeans and underwear on top of them, all in a tangled, warm heap, she looked up at his slightly blurry form, trying to read his expression.

It was . . . reverential. There was no other word for it. He was looking at her like she’d stepped out of the pages of his comics, a living, breathing soul mate to Aditya, that wild, curly haired girl come to life.

“Oh . . .” The sound had escaped without Rishi seeming to notice. He leaned down and swept her hair aside with just his fingertips, gently kissing the side of her neck, her shoulder, her collarbone. “Lajawab ,” he murmured against her skin.

Dimple breathed out, her body turning to liquid gold under the slow fire of his lips. She closed her eyes, letting him guide them both downward onto the bed.


When Dimple let herself into her dorm room around dinnertime, she was still smiling. Her bones felt warm and flexible; her joints were held together with laughing gas. Everything felt brighter, shinier. And she didn’t even care if that was a cliché.

She was humming “Dance Pe Chance” to herself when the lump of covers on Celia’s bed moved. Dimple jumped. “I didn’t know you were napping in here! Sorry. Was I too loud?”

The face that poked out had a goatee. Dimple shrieked.

“Chill, dude,” Evan said, rubbing his face grumpily as he sat up. The covers pooled around his waist; he wasn’t wearing a shirt. In spite of his six-pack, Dimple couldn’t help but think that she much preferred Rishi’s solid body to his. It just felt more . . . honest somehow.

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