International Men of Sports 1
w/ Devon Rhodes
Book One in the International Men of Sports series.
A handsome Bollywood actor must choose between his career and a rugged cricket player from his past, who he’s fallen in love with…again.
Rajan Malik has the world of Bollywood in the palm of his hand–a beautiful girlfriend, starring roles, adoring fans… He should be happy, but behind the facade lies a man conflicted and exhausted by the pressure placed on him by his ill mother, his agent and society. His life is not his own, and all he wants to do is escape.
Indian Premier League cricketer Ajay Singh can’t believe how bad his university roommate Rajan looks when he spots his picture in the paper. They had parted on bad terms. Still, he’s moved to offer Rajan his support by renewing their friendship.
But friendship was not all they shared back then. Though Ajay is out, Rajan isn’t willing to give up his carefully cultivated Bollywood image to be with him publicly. And with very little privacy, it won’t take long for someone to find out they are more than friends.
Their renewed secret affair is fraught with difficulties as they deal with the death of Rajan’s mother, the secret of Rajan’s till-now absent father, a jealous friend, intrusive social media, and threatening notes from someone who seems to know all about their private lives…
It’s a bit of a sticky wicket they find themselves in. Will it be too late when both men finally realise that they’ll need to compromise, or stand to lose everything?
The noise hit Rajan like a wave crashing over him as soon as the doors to the chauffeured car were opened. His agent, Beni Sharma, was the first to exit and the flashes from the waiting cameras lit up the interior momentarily before the photographers evidently realised that Sharma wasn’t the main attraction.
Rajan took a breath, glad for even a moment’s respite from the badgering. He needed a break. He’d been filming non-stop for close to a year, and the exhaustion had finally caught up with him. He’d lost nearly ten kilos for his last role, since they’d needed a lot of beach shots and required even more muscle definition than his natural weight allowed for. Starvation and intense workouts had cut his physique, but had left his already low reserves seriously depleted.
Sharma, however, refused to hear him when he spoke about needing some time off, and had been trying for days to get him to commit to yet another ‘must-do’ project. And he wasn’t taking no for an answer.
Rajan received a not-so-gentle nudge to the shoulder.
“Are you ever going to get out? Wait…how do I look?”
He turned back to look at his girlfriend Karishma Saxena, one of the rising stars of Bollywood, according to the infatuated media. It was her premiere—he was merely her escort this evening, as he hadn’t been in this production.
He obediently ran his gaze over her, from head to…well…cleavage.
“How does that dress even stay up?” he asked. It was gold and sparkly and looked as though, with any sudden move, gravity would make sure she had front page coverage in all the wrong kinds of magazines.
She raised an eyebrow. “Double-sided tape and wishful thinking. Now, seriously…”
“You look beautiful, as always,” he answered honestly. It wasn’t her fault he wanted to be anywhere but here. Anywhere far away from the madness waiting outside the door.
He turned back to the open door and began to step out. As he did, he could tell the moment they recognised him.
“Rajan! Rajan Malik! Are you with Karishma?”
“Rajan! Look this way!”
He pasted a smile on and straightened. This time the flashes were almost blinding. He immediately turned to reach out to Karishma, assisting her to step out onto the red carpet, then offering his arm as they faced the wall of cameras and shouting reporters.
The usual questions were called out—asking about their next projects, who they were wearing, and the latest favourite…
“When is the wedding?”
Beni Sharma represented both Raj and Karishma and, after allowing a minute or so of photographs, he moved into the tableau and posed next to them.
“Now, now,” he pandered. “These two won’t have time for a wedding until after they wrap up filming on the new movie they’re co-starring in.”
It took all the professionalism Rajan had to maintain his smile in the face of that deliberate bombshell. Fed up and about ready to create a scene, he put himself and Karishma in motion, walking slowly away from the car—and Sharma—along the red carpet leading towards the suburban Mumbai studio where the premiere was being held. He paused, as was expected, just under the awning, in front of the logoed background for more photographs. This is where Karishma and he would wait for her co-star for this film to arrive for even more pictures. As pissed off as he was at that moment, Rajan just didn’t have it in him to buck tradition, though he wished he had the balls to just keep walking into the studio and find a quiet corner somewhere.
Maybe even watch the movie.
Rajan let Karishma subtly arrange them so he was standing slightly behind her. He knew his black suit with silver stripes and black shirt and tie would set off her gold and bright pink gown. They’d practised the pose they’d been coached on in front of the mirror after being dressed earlier. Seemed like almost every detail of his life was planned by someone else.
How the hell am I going to get out of this now?
Did he really even have a choice but to make the movie? Sharma had basically announced his participation, which would be faithfully reported to millions of people, including the principles of the studio. And they were determined to get him on board. He and Karishma had somehow become the couple to watch in Bollywood. So much so that the studio had booted the originally cast male lead last week under some contrived circumstances then had demanded, through Beni, to sign Rajan as his replacement.
It meant huge publicity…and a huge payoff. The contract he’d been offered was enough to stun him. He’d finally made it to the A-list with this one.
He blinked, and it took some effort to reopen his eyelids all the way.
Yeah, a fat lot of good that’ll do you if you’re dead from exhaustion.