Having to stand outside my uncle’s office made my cheeks tingle with embarrassment. The document I held, freshly faxed, the countless mistakes underlined and circled and scribbled on in red ink, felt heavy in my hand.
I knew I should never have taken this job.
“Saanvi - come in!”
I pushed down my nerves and opened the door, feeling about three inches tall in my too-big blazer, my knees practically knocking together. The room opened up to the familiar sight of my uncle’s private office overlooking the now setting sun, casting its last streams of light over the towering New York skyline forty stories up. It could’ve been four hundred; the view did nothing for my shaking knees.
At the other end of the room, Prem Kapoor was reaching up to unravel his silk tie – a slim piece of fabric that no doubt cost at least two months of my rent. He was classically handsome and knew it too - I barely had a foot in the door before he was smiling, a dimple creasing into each cheek, his dark eyes locking with mine. For a moment I forgot where I was, soaking in his sunset outline, the warmth in his skin practically filling the room.
“Am I paying you to stand there all day?” He quipped, and I was shaken back to reality.
“T-technically you don’t pay me at all,” I couldn’t help myself, “I’m just an intern.”
“Nobody is just anything,” Prem replied with a laugh, “but I understand the sentiment. Take a seat now, we need to talk.”
We need to talk… five words guaranteed to cast fear into the heart of even the strongest woman. I slunk forward, my heels clacking on the old-money hardwood flooring, feeling my uncle’s eyes on me with each step. The moment I sat down I pressed my legs together and smoothed my skirt in a nervous gesture; even if I couldn’t do my job, I could at least pretend to look the part.
“Ever since your stepfather recommended you for this role I’ve been chasing after you,” Prem looked sympathetic but his harsh tone cut through me with every word, “It’s getting a little tedious. I thought you needed this internship for college credit?”
“I did,” I could barely look at him, “I do.”
“Then why aren’t you acting like it?” Prem fired back.
A moment of heavy silence passed between us before Prem leant forward across his desk, gesturing me to do the same. I mirrored his action and we were brought inches apart. I felt myself being drawn in by his scent.
“I’m trying,” I admitted, my voice quiet, “I promise I am.”
“I know, Saanvi, I know,” Prem reached out and found my hand, bringing it between us on the desk. For a moment nothing more was said, his thumb traced the lines on my palm with a tenderness I had never felt before; it was warm and gentle and reassuring. After weeks of trying and failing and struggling, his touch was everything, grounding me to the moment. I had no idea how much I had needed this.
I cleared my throat before continuing, cringing internally. “I’m sorry. Really. I just… Do you think you could… maybe… not tell Dad about… my shitty report?”
Prem threw his head back in a soft laugh, his hand squeezing tightly around mine, affectionate. I could see the veins in his forearm, the tightness of his shirt around his biceps, little details I had never appreciated before. The nausea I had felt in the pit of my stomach began to subside bit by bit, only to be replaced by something else - even if I wasn’t sure what.
“Your father… he doesn’t need to know,” Prem’s hand travelled up from my hand to my wrist, his eyes growing darker, “I’ve always been good at keeping secrets from him.”
His fingers left a trail of heat in their wake. His voice had dropped an octave, and suddenly I was aware of just how quiet the office was, how quickly night was setting. Behind my uncle, twinkling New York windows illuminated the skyline, each a microcosm of business, family, pleasure.