Home > Incense and Sensibility (The Rajes #3)(6)

Incense and Sensibility (The Rajes #3)(6)
Author: Sonali Dev

“You’re up!” Someone ran into his room. Hands were thrown around him with no regard for the shoulder that felt a bit like a boulder was balanced on it.

“It’s you,” he said, poking at his brain for her name. It was gone again.

Fortunately, his sister Trisha followed close on her heels. So he hadn’t forgotten everyone’s names, just the name of the woman who was supposed to be his girlfriend. Fabulous.

“Hey, Yash.” His sister tapped the woman’s arm, obviously trying not to show her impatience, which was usually not something Trisha bothered with.

His girlfriend squeezed Yash’s hand and left the room with an “I’ll be right back.”

Trisha pushed his hair off his forehead. “You’re awake.”

“Was that not what you were expecting?” He tried to remember the details of what had happened, but the fog blanketing his brain was too thick.

She smiled her amused-doctor smile. “No, drama queen, we were fully expecting to not be rid of you just yet. Then again, we were also not expecting you to go and get yourself shot.” She looked like she wanted to smack him upside the head.

Right. He’d been shot. “Abdul. How . . .” Yash tried to sit up.

Trisha pressed him back down. “He’s in the hospital too. We’re treating him.”

Yash waited, but she said nothing more and just kept petting his hair like he was a puppy she’d found on the street. All this out-of-character coddling was more than a little disconcerting. Trisha was his least warm-and-fuzzy sister.

“And . . .” Yash prompted, not bothering to hide his impatience.

“And you need to worry about your own healing right now. How’s your shoulder feeling?”

Yash was the most bullheaded of the siblings. Trisha ought to know that. “But he’s okay? He’s conscious?”

Her hesitation made it clear that they’d had a family meeting while Yash was out and strategized how much to tell him and when.

“He’s out of surgery.”

Usually Yash could outmaneuver his family’s strategizing in his sleep, but he was so not in the mood for that. “How bad is it?”

Before Trisha could answer, his girlfriend came back into the room. Behind her his entire family followed. Could someone please tell him her name?

“You’re awake.” Mina Raje was not given to crying, but her swollen eyes meant she had been.

“Ma, I’m fine.”

Their father squeezed his foot. Other than the squeeze, Dr. Shree Raje was as regally stoic as ever. Yash’s father had been born a prince, and the staff at the Sripore Palace, the Raje’s ancestral home in India, still referred to him as His Royal Highness. It was so fitting that Yash and his siblings had always called him HRH behind his back. The shadows under HRH’s eyes were the only tell of his worry.

Now that they were adults, at least he wasn’t glaring at Nisha and Ashna for crying. And, man, those two were making up for the rest of them. As soon as she saw them, even Trisha’s eyes filled up.

Yash could bet his life having a bullet enter you after hitting someone else made it much less serious. For you, not for the person who’d saved your life.

“Will someone please tell me how Abdul is doing?”

His sisters all looked at one another and refused to meet his eyes. He turned to their significant others: DJ, Trisha’s boyfriend, looked at Trisha, and something passed between them. Something that kept DJ from answering Yash.

Next he looked at Neel, who was married to Nisha, the sister who was also Yash’s campaign manager, therefore also an employee (not that Yash was brave enough to remind her of that). Neel had been one of Yash’s closest friends since they were in diapers, but the traitor did the same thing DJ had done, he looked at his wife and then studied the walls.

Were his sisters puppet masters? Looking at Rico yielded the same results. Rico looked at Ashna, who gave him a wide-eye, and the man promptly turned to studying the many monitors in the room.

“For shit’s sake! . . . Sorry, Ma. Will someone tell me what is going on with the man who took a bullet for me?” Yes, he yelled, and it made him break into a cough, and that made the worried faces multiply their worry twenty times over.

“They don’t think Abdullah Khan is going to make it,” his girlfriend said, impervious to the glares that went flying around the room.

“What Naina means,” Nisha said in her intimidating-mom voice, “is that his condition is critical right now but the doctors are trying their best to save him.”

Naina. Of course.

This memory-lapse thing was annoying as hell. Yash fought to reach for the rush of relief knowing her name should have brought, the hope Nisha’s reassurance about Abdul should have brought, but all he felt was parched emptiness in place of all the emotions he should be feeling.

All around his bed were faces he loved, looking at him with absolute adoration and gratitude that he was alive. A tightly squeezed circle of all the reasons his life was far richer than anyone deserved. He knew this. Logically. Intellectually. Up in his head. In his heart there was nothing.

“I want to see Abdul,” he said, and the circle of faces turned all shades of indignant.

“Let’s have your doctor look at you first,” Trisha said. Then she turned to the rest of them. “Can everyone clear out? We’re not all supposed to be here. He’s fine. Seriously. We’re overwhelming him.”

He was not overwhelmed. He should be. He was not.

That didn’t change the fact that this was a hospital. It was Trisha’s domain and DJ squeezed her hand and headed out. Rico and Neel followed him. It was also their father’s domain, but Ma took his hand and tugged him out. Which meant there was a strategic plan at play. Yash studied the people left in the room and tried to calculate who’d been assigned to manage him.

“Naina, beta, let’s wait outside,” Ma said to Naina in a far kinder tone than the one she used on her own children. It was her children-in-law voice and it was always extra-kind toward Naina.

“Yes, Mina Auntie.” Naina dropped a kiss on Yash’s lips and smiled sadly.

Did he and Naina kiss? Was that part of the deal? Then why did it feel so strange? Did their kissing always feel so . . . so . . . dry?

He smiled back, managing only to highlight the fact that there was nothing where his feelings should have been. Nothing where her kiss had landed.

Once they were all gone, it was just him and his three sisters. Strategically speaking, he had to admit it was a smart choice.

“I’m not overwhelmed.” Honestly, any degree of whelmed would be great. “I just need to see Abdul.”

“I think they’re only letting family see him right now.” This from Nisha. Other than Yash, she was the one who had spent the most time with Abdul. She knew him. And Yash knew her. There was no way she hadn’t gone to see him.

Nisha studied his face. “His wife, his parents, and his in-laws are with him. They’re hopeful.”

“And Naaz?” Yash asked.

Nisha went just a little bit green. Her hand went to her pregnant belly. A baby having her father shot two days after she was born was a dose of reality no expectant mother should be exposed to. “His little girl is healthy. So is Arzu.”

“Good. Then I’d like to go see them.” Yash moved to stand, and for the second time today Trisha held his shoulder—the good one—keeping him in place.

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