I always knew death would touch my life at some point.
It’s inevitable, really.
We all die after all.
I guess I never expected it to be the man I loved—or if it was, I expected us to be old and gray in our beds.
But life had other plans, and now Devak is gone, and I’m … I’m numb.
I wiggle around on the hard pew, trying to get more comfortable. It doesn’t work.
The man at the podium drones on and on.
Devak wouldn’t have liked this. He was a simple man. He wouldn’t appreciate so much fussing over him, and he definitely wouldn’t appreciate his step-mother blubbering her eyes out in the front pew.
His father, Rajas, pats his wife’s back in comfort.
It takes all my energy not to roll my eyes.
Although, I guess I’m bitter since they stuck me in the back like I’m unimportant. Since Devak and I weren’t married, Rajas and his wife, Lila, consider me null and void now. They never liked me. They thought me to only be a thieving American, after his money and name. They couldn’t be more wrong. I truly love Devak. Loved. I loved him. Past tense. I nearly choked. It didn’t seem right to be thinking of him in the past tense.
The man speaking finishes and everyone stands.
Everyone except me, that is. My legs feel like they weigh five-hundred pounds.
Probably five-hundred pounds of tears.
I haven’t cried, not once, since I got the news Devak was killed in the car accident. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
I will the tears to come now, as Lila and Rajas take one last look at Devak, but nothing happens.
All that exists is the numbness.
Rajas looks sadly at his youngest and favorite son, gone from this world too soon. Dev has—had—an older brother, but I’ve never met him. I’ve never even seen a photo of him. He’s something of a pariah.
Although, if Rajas were my father maybe I’d be the same way. The man takes the word overbearing to another level.
Though, I never really understood why Dev didn’t talk about his brother.
He didn’t talk about his mother much either except to say she left shortly after his brother stopped coming around.
I look around the people still gathered in the church, and no one looks like they could be his mother or brother.
They probably don’t even know Dev’s gone, and it makes me sad. They deserve to know, though I’m sure Rajas would disagree.
Several people eye me, and I see Rajas say something to one of them. I’m sure it isn’t anything nice. If he’d ever actually bothered to get to know me he would’ve seen how much I loved his son.
They could think what they wanted, though, since I knew my love for him was true.
I wasn’t in the habit of caring what people thought of me. I learned a long time ago the opinion of others was useless.
The church emptied, and I was left alone with a somber Rajas and Lila, both of them looking at me like I was a speck of dirt they wanted to wipe off their designer shoes.
Rajas is tall and handsome like Devak. He’s full Indian with dark caramel skin and inky black hair. His eyes are as dark as his hair, and his mouth is almost always set in a frown. He has a regal air about him, like royalty, though he’s not.
Lila has pale skin, light blond hair, and lifeless blue eyes. She’s the complete opposite of his first wife, Isla. I’d only ever seen a picture of the woman, but she was beautiful, with black hair, olive skin, and violet colored eyes.
“Sloane,” Rajas says sternly.
“Sir,” I address him. I’m not allowed to call him Rajas, or even Mr. Kapur.
“What are you doing?” he asks, his eyes raking over me where I sit, picking apart my black dress and shoes I’m sure.
“Sitting,” I say sarcastically, since it’s pretty obvious what I’m doing.
I’m not normally so short with him, since I usually want to impress him, but with Devak gone I can’t bring myself to care. What’s the point anymore?
He starts to smile but it quickly disappears when he catches himself. He clears his throat. “Aren’t you leaving?”
I resist the urge to roll my eyes. “Not yet. I’m not ready to leave,” I answer honestly. I need another moment with Dev. This is my last chance with him.
Lila stands slightly behind her husband, peering over his shoulder at me.
Rajas clears his throat. “Don’t be too long.”
I nod as he straightens his suit jacket.
“I won’t be much longer.”
Stiffly, he takes Lila’s hand and starts for the doors. I watch them leave. Rajas pauses at the door and looks back for one last look at his son. He looks heartbroken, and while he might be a raging asshole to me, I think he truly loved his son—well, at least the one.
He shakes his head and places his hand on Lila’s waist, ushering her out the door.
The heavy doors bang closed and I’m finally alone with Dev.
I lean forward with my elbows on my knees and bury my face in my hands.
All I ask is for one tear.
One tear for the man I love.
I get nothing.
“Oh, Dev,” I whisper into the empty church. “Why has this happened?”
Of course no one answers.
Time passes slowly as I sit, and still no tears come even as I beg—beg to feel something besides this emptiness now residing in my chest.
The doors behind me open, and I jump to a standing position, thinking it’s Rajas come to tell me my time is up.
“Sorry, I’m sorry,” I stammer, my head bowed as I grab my coat. “I was going.”
“Oh?” responds a voice I don’t recognize but feels entirely familiar at the same time.
“What the—?” My head shoots up and my eyes connect with violet ones. I nearly choke on my tongue because the guy is gorgeous.
He narrows his eyes on me, his two dark brows drawing together. He’s handsome, it’s undeniable. His black hair is brushed away from his face and his skin is a beautiful honey color, and I wonder if it’s as soft as it looks. His face is chiseled, with full lips, and a dimple in his chin. He’s tall, easily six-feet, but I’d say taller, and lean but still well built so it’s clear he works out. His dress shirt clings to his chest and his gray dress pants hang delectably on his hips.
And I’m checking out a guy at my boyfriend’s funeral. Just fucking great.
The man stalks toward me slowly, his brows still drawn together, giving him an angry look. Each step is slow and deliberate like he’s stalking a frightened deer.
I probably do look like a deer caught in headlights.
“You are?” he asks in a British accent.
My hands wring together. His intensity has me unnerved. “Sloane,” I reply.
“Sloane,” he repeats, testing out my name on my tongue. He makes a face, and I’m not sure he likes the flavor. His unusual violet eyes narrow on me. “What are you doing here?”
I swallow thickly. “I’m attending my boyfriend’s funeral.”
He looks around at the empty room and then back at me, as if to make a point.
I clear my throat. “Everyone … uh … left.”
“But not you?” He stares at me like I’m some fascinating exotic bird he’s just discovered. I have news for him—I’m not interesting.
I look to the floor, my shoes, anything but his inquisitive violet eyes that seem to see too much. “They don’t like me,” I finally respond. “I wanted a moment alone.”
His laugh fills the air, and it surprises me. I get the impression this isn’t a man who laughs a lot. “We have that in common, Sloane.”
“What?” I asked stupidly.
“They don’t like me either,” he whispers conspiratorially, like he’s letting me in on some sort of secret.
“Why?” I ask, my eyes roaming over him. He looks familiar, so much like Dev, but I know I’ve never met him before.
He shrugs. “Because I dare to go against the grain. I find rules are meant for breaking.”
“Who are you?” I finally ask, in awe of him.
I feel like he’s put a spell on me or something.
“Siva,” he answers.
My eyes narrow in thought. I know his name—but how?
My mouth pops open as clarity hits me.
Siva … as in Siva Kapur.
Dev’s brother is back.