Indian Moon
by Michelle Harris

Part One

"Oh," Rachael gasped out as she tripped over some computer cabling in the middle of the walkway towards her desk.

Two large, bronze hands reached out and grasped her steadily about her slim waist.

"Thank you!" She called out gratefully over her shoulder to her rescuer, her wide green eyes locking with deep, black pools.

"My pleasure," Siva Rajesh stated smiling back at her. His gaze was warm and teasing. He nudged her forward gently and then released her. Watching her retreat from him with a contemplative look in his eyes.

Rachael glanced back over her shoulder once again and smiled back at him, her face flaming. Her heart raced and her hands were unsteady. Her waist tingled where Siva's hands had been. Why are you acting like such a goose, Rachael berated herself and shaking her head in the process.

Siva was the reason. There was just something about him that drew her gaze in his direction time and time again. Dark, smoldering eyes, black silky hair. Perfectly bronzed complexion. Sinew, lean body. He reminded her of sultry nights and horizontal positions. Different positions, all kinds of positions, really, if she thought about it and oh! But definitely horizontal, the she groaned softly to herself, chastising herself for thinking such things.

Siva returned to their building last week from an intense but special development project with several other programmers on staff and it had been nearly a year since she last saw him. She had only periodic glimpses of him during the past year.

Siva turned abruptly away and ordered a nearby computer technician within the vicinity to clear the cables obstructing the walkway.

Rachael hugged her organizer closer to her body and closed her eyes for a moment, reliving the incident in her mind her again. Her back tingled again. She did not need this sudden attraction overwhelming her. Siva was a very nice looking man and of course, as a female she would be attracted to his natural good looks, she reminded herself. She was still trying to cope with her new life as it was. She didn't need to even think about a relationship with another man, especially since she still had emotional scars to get over.

The loss of Kevin still staggered her even after a year and some months of living without him. His untimely death had caused a catastrophic ripple in her life and with their children. Kevin and her were high school sweethearts, marrying directly out of high school. The happy marriage resulted in two children. Leon was nearly ten, followed by their youngest child, Charlene who was seven. Both children suffered gravely from his death. Particularly, Leon had been the closest to Kevin. The young boy was very quiet nowadays. Rachael's heart ached every time her gaze settled on their son. Leon was nearly the exact image of his father, with his doleful brown eyes and chocolate, brown locks.

There were many nights where she had cried herself to sleep, only to discover her children slipping into her bed in the dead of the night. By morning, Leon would quietly leave the bed, leaving only Charlene curled up beside her on the pillows. Their small bodies had lent a small comfort to her, easing the pain of the lonely days and sorrowful nights. Most of the time, Rachael found solace in her work, burying herself in various projects.

"Earth to Rachael," Melanie called beside her, waving her hand in front of Rachael's face.

"Huh?" Rachael snapped out of her reverie, shaking her red-gold hair. The thick mass hung down her back in a thick braid. Bright, green eyes stared back at her friend, their focus clearing as they centered on her co-worker.

"You're supposed to be in that meeting, you know," Melanie smiled, pointing towards the Half Moon Bay Conference Room.

"Oh you've got to be kidding," Rachael gasped out, grabbing her notepad and pen in the process.

"I knew you'd forget," Melanie chuckled, adding, "That's why I came over here. You know, it's that big meeting with the Prospect Development team."

"Thanks, you're a lifesaver!" Rachael replied gratefully heading back into the same direction that she had just come from.

Gee, she thought to herself, feeling sheepish, what an idiot! Siva was going to think that she purposely went out of her way to avoid him. Just what she needed right now. Actually, she had been on her way to the meeting when she saw his tall form conversing casually with two other programmers within their department. The usual nervousness had set in and then he had swung those incredibly dark eyes-smoky, black eyes, mind you, framed by the longest pair of eyelashes that she had ever seen on a guy. Not that she noticed them or anything like that, oh no.

When she reached the conference room, everyone was already seated, the meeting already in progress. Her eyes scanned for empty chairs, unaware that her gaze touched on Siva's for a brief moment before finally noticing the empty chair next to him. Oh boy. Rachael let out a small sigh and headed toward the chair, suddenly feeling self-conscious about her appearance as pairs of eyes followed her entry.

Rachael could not know how half the room of single men lingered on her with appreciation and longing, her long braid like a fiery banner. The other half, the married men, secretly admired her petite, yet graceful figure from afar.

Underneath her dark, blue loose sweater, her breasts were full and round, her waist tiny, and her short, navy business skirt revealed tampered legs encased within matching stockings. A pair of moleskin, low heels finished off her outfit.

"Would mind staying a little after the meeting," Siva asked, turning toward her after the long, grueling meeting. Co-workers were filing out of the conference room.

"No, what's on your mind," Rachael started, gathering up her notebook and pen.

"I just want to be sure that you're okay with the amount of work involved with this project," he began.

She nodded her head in understanding, frowning slightly.

Siva sighed quietly, his gaze intent on her face. "This project will involve a lot of your expertise help with the current database while we're in testing phase. It will require some weekend and even evening work. You know how we're pressed time before the live date. "

"Oh, I didn't realize..." Rachael added, her mind working rapidly. Would she have to work with him?

"Where do you live?" He asked suddenly.

"In the north part of Oakland," she asked surprised, her heart skipped a beat at the personal question. "Why?"

But he only nodded, in deep thought and giving Rachael a moment to scan his face. She forced herself not to sigh again as her gaze lingered on the lean lines of his face or the incredibly long, dark lashes that framed his eyes.

"Actually, I wanted to bring up another matter that I've been wanting to discuss with you," he began hesitantly, grabbing her attention.

Rachael sat before him, like a bird about to bolt from her perch. He wanted to stare at her, but dared not to offend her with his boldness. She was a very beautiful woman, in his opinion. The past year working late evenings and in another building had temporarily subdued the attraction he felt toward her. Even when he knew that she was happily married, he couldn't help admiring her from a distance along with his other co-workers.

Seeing her this past week had reawakened something buried in him that he couldn't quite describe. He also knew that he couldn't avoid the subject that he had to bring up or the amount of time they would end up having to spend in each other's company.

"Okay," Rachael stated, tilting her head in question, wondering what it was he wanted?

"You know, I think highly of your work," he started and then chuckled at the surprised expression on her face.

"I...I..." Rachael stuttered, speechless, her green eyes blinking wide with confusion. She was immensely pleased that he had noticed all the hard work she had put into their team's recent project.

"That's why I've chosen you to take over my duties while I'm gone on sabbatical leave," he glanced back at her, trying to gauge her reaction.

"Your duties..." she echoed, startled. "For how long?" She questioned, curiously.

"For about two months," he stated, sardonically. Not quite looking forward to the leave. He had to return to India to marry the woman his mother had arranged for him to marry. But it was part of his heritage and a tradition that was hard to break.

His mother, the epitome of elegance, a true jewel in India, Sushmita Rajesh dressed in all her finery, the Punjabi Suit, edged with crested, tiny diamonds and intricate etching, proclaiming her endless wealth. The same woman who still could rule his life from afar, with the snap of her immaculate, painted nails. Fortunately for him, he was just as intelligent and just as strong-willed as she was. Siva sighed; becoming annoyed just thinking about his mother.

His dark gaze returned to the woman before him, her eyes bright, her full lips pursed in concentration and he wondered for the hundredth time what those succulent lips of hers tasted like. Did she ever think of him in a personal way, the same way he thought of her since his return to their building. Before then, when he first met her, nearly a year ago, his thoughts of her had only been fantasies of what he could not have.

"I'm getting married," he added half-heartedly. His lips twisted into a sardonic grin, his face hardening at the mention of marriage.

"Congratulations!" She exclaimed, a smile pasting on her lips, her eyes still bright. Inside, she felt a sudden stab of jealousy roar through her at the unknown woman, the intensity searing through her. Geez, what are you getting your hackles all up for, she thought with just a tinge of distress at her emotions running away with her. You don't even know Siva! Well, just barely, her mind amended.

"Thanks," Siva smiled, watching her with an almost guarded look.

It seemed odd to her that he didn't seem so thrilled about his impending marriage. Except that she didn't know much about Indian men or their culture, either. She understood that family and tradition was very important to them. She had heard of marriages crossing the oceans between the United States and India but never paid much attention to intricacies involved in their culture. She wondered if the lady in question was an American Indian or of native India.

"So who's the lucky lady?" She asked suddenly, unable to believe how bold she was being. Red spots appeared on her cheeks when Siva chuckled, his lean body seeming to relax of a sudden before her. He laid back against his chair, arms folding under one another and Rachael couldn't help following the movement of his torso, the subtle hint of corded muscles playing against his trim stomach beneath his dress shirt.

Rachael knew from the ladies gossiping in their department that Siva regularly worked out in the company's gym. She herself had seen him a couple of times from the gym window, easily running a rapid pace on the treadmill. She was glad then that he couldn't see her from where she stood watching him, on her way to her car, paralyzed with admiration. The sun was setting at the time, the lights were blazing in the gym room and even from the smoky, reflective window she could see the sweat running down his well-formed chest, his tank top clinging to his lean, muscular body. His thighs had been thick, sculpted with muscles that were used to the vigorous exercise. She had chuckled when she noticed two women behind Siva, admiring his physic just as she had been presently doing.

"Oh, I don't think you know her," Siva answered smoothly, bringing her back to reality. "She lives in India."

"Yeah, India where? It's a big continent, you know," she quipped back, her eyes flashing.

"In Mumbai or what most people around the world know as Bombay," he laughed, deeply.

"Oh," Rachael deflated, but felt a delicious shiver run up her spine in response to his laughter. The sound was beautiful. Another pang of jealously filtered through her veins at the unknown woman.

"She's a programmer; like you and I," Siva added unnecessarily, his thoughts seemingly elsewhere. "I guess I could thank my mother for that afterthought," he finished, almost as if he had spoken to himself and then he realized that he still had an audience.

"A peer," Rachael whispered, and then caught herself in the process, taken aback by her own reaction.

"What did you say?" He asked, curiously.

"Oh it was nothing," Rachael laughed, if a little nervously and then shook her head, wondering at herself again.

"Well, suffice to say that I will be marrying my bride in a couple of months and I need someone like you to take over my duties," Siva stated, wrapping up the conversation and sitting up in his seat once more. "I'd like to begin this afternoon on the SQL admin duties with you, and for the time being, Myra will take over your regular duties."

Rachael nodded her head, not quite ready to trust her voice. She wondered again over his intended and then squashed the thoughts back into the deep recesses of her mind. Illicit thoughts, she told herself adamantly.

As they left the conference room, Siva turned once more toward Rachael who was filing out of the doorway behind him.

"By the way, what are you doing for lunch?" He asked casually, one hand going into his pocket, the other poised on the doorknob. He shouldn't be asking her out to lunch, but what was an innocent lunch date anyhow? His mind rationalized. But he was curious to know what her answer would be.

"Oh, I haven't thought about...does this have to do with...?" Rachael asked, flustered by his question. The room seemed so hot of a sudden. Lunch! With him! Those horizontal positions popped back into her lush mind.

"Oh yes, we can get a head start, if you like," he added, smiling, although it wasn't quite the type of lunch he had in mind.

"Okay, how about twelve noon? I usually take it at that time," she couldn't believe what she was saying. Lunch with Siva!

"Just what are you doing?" Melanie chuckled, standing beside Rachael's desk, for the second time that late morning.

Rachael looked up at her co-worker and then went back to massaging her forehead with her fingers.

"Trying to make it to lunch, that's what," She replied, groaning in the process. And that was the biggest problem of them all, her lunch. Her lunch appointment, because she refused to think of it as being a lunch date with Siva Rajesh, the one man in their department that the women salivated after every time he walked into a boardroom or office.

"Yeah, you mean you can't wait for your lunch date with fine-baby Siva, hum?" Melanie laughed, echoing the same thoughts in Rachael's mind.

"Ha ha, yourself," Rachael replied, annoyed with her friend.

"Oh come on, you know that every last woman here would give their life to be in your shoes at this moment," Melanie plopped down into a chair next to hers.

Rachael eyed her with friendly distaste. Melanie promptly ignored the scowl on her face.

"You know," Melanie continued, grinning like an elf, "I don't know any woman here who has ever been on a lunch date with him or-" she continued as if warming up to the subject. "That not many people know much about his other life, besides programming." And then she added as an afterthought, "Okay, so we know he lives in a big house in the Berkeley hills, drives a cool car, makes a six digit salary and works out every other evening in the company gym. But, that's it." Pretty much summoning up everything she and Rachael had ever heard about Siva from company gossip.

"So I guess that makes me the likely candidate to discover what he does with his free time and who he does it with?" Rachael chuckled, shaking her head at the same time.

"And who is that?" Siva asked nonchalantly as he walked up to Rachael's cubby, making both women jump in their seats.

"Oh really, it's nobody you would know," Melanie waved her hand, her eyes not quite meeting Siva's. Red spots erupted on her cheeks and she noticed that Rachael looked like she was about to explode, matching flush on her face as well.

"Really, try me," Siva grinned, pearly teeth revealing, his devastating smile causing both women to catch their breath. He certainly looked delicious at the moment, with his hands casually tucked into his tailored, dress pants pockets.

Rachael spluttered like an idiot.

Melanie's face grew redder.

"Oh look," Rachael gasped out staring down her watch, not really seeing the watch on her wrist. "It's time for lunch," she glanced quickly back up at Melanie with a warning on her face, "Siva, if you're ready to leave?" She grabbed her planner, ignoring her friend and
Siva's baffled expression, exiting her desk area.

"Oh yeah, that's why I'm here," Siva grinned behind her, quite innocently he admired the swing of her softly rounded hips underneath her dark skirt before replying, "we can take my car."

"Well, I can see now why my son decided to cancel his lunch date with me in order to have it with you instead," drawled a throaty voice beside Rachael. The woman's English was excellent except for the sharp accent.

"Hello mother," Siva replied, dryly, leaning back against his chair.

Rachael gazed up at the sound of the distinctively feminine voice. So...this was Siva's mother. Great. Rachael sighed. She was having hard time just trying to adjust being this close to Siva. Much less, having to be this close to him for the next couple of weeks.

The ride to Chevy's in Siva's Lexus LX 470 car had been anything but boring to her. Her curiosity had known no bounds then. She couldn't keep her eyes from wandering over the computer books that lay in the back seat of his sleek and obviously new car. Neither could she miss the personal possessions that sat occupying the back seat as well, a silk tie, his jacket and some files that he had been working on. She couldn't ignore the faint musk of his cologne teasing her senses as they pulled out of the parking lot and onto the street. Or the way he easily handled the big, yet powerful land cruiser with finesse, reminding her quite vividly of the way Kevin used to drive.

At that thought, she had promptly shut her eyes against the dim pain, the hurt was buried deep in her, but somehow the pain was not quite so fierce now as she thought of her late husband. Siva had quietly asked her if anything was wrong, having noted the distress on her face, the concern evident in the tone of his voice. Course, how could she tell him that her thoughts had been comparing her late husband's driving abilities with his own.

Instead, she had mildly complained about how hot she felt. He promptly turned on the air conditioning. Shortly thereafter, they arrived at the crowded restaurant.

"Hello, darling," Sushmita bent low and allowed her son to kiss her smooth cheek, her dark gaze never wavering from the red-gold beauty watching her wearily from her seat. Sushmita was oddly curious as to what her son was up to, the annoyance showing through on her face. Oh, he was doing this to piss her off, she knew. He had voiced his opinions on arranged marriages, preferring to shun the current fashion in India, where arranged marriages were quite the en vogue thing to do. Siva liked to believe that he was more American than Indian. However, she also knew that Siva would marry Deepa without a mishap, he wouldn't deny his mother a son or daughter to carry on the name. This young woman, although quite beautiful with her huge, green eyes, sunset hair and full lips could even rival that of Deepa's traditional Indian beauty. And she was definitely not Indian, but American.

"Let me introduce you to a colleague of mine," Siva began, his gaze going back to Rachael's with an almost indulgent look on his face. "This is Rachael. She works with me and will be taking over some of my duties while I'm away, vacationing and getting married. Rachael, this is my mother, Sushmita," He wanted it abundantly clear to his mother that Rachael was well aware of his impending marriage.

Rachael started to stand up, but Sushmita motioned her to say down.

"That won't be necessary, dear, as I won't be staying for long. My party is already waiting for me at another table," Sushmita announced, smiling politely down at the young woman. She would get the details out of Siva tonight.

Although, she was curious to know if the lunch was entirely innocent as it appeared to her. It wasn't hard to miss the paperwork in front of them or the fact that their heads had been bent close to one another. A fact, that she didn't particularly care for, considering that she had worked her pretty buns off to get Siva's arranged marriage with one of Mumbai's top programmers, not to mention how deep Deepa's family pockets were. A nice combination, she thought with exuberance. With her son, she never knew, considering how he seemed attentive at the moment but still managed to look quite bored in her presence.

"Well, it was pleasure meeting you," Rachael replied, smiling cautiously at the older woman. Siva's mother was still quite beautiful despite her son being in his middle thirties, an age she was aware of from local gossip at work. Silky, black midnight hair was done in a thick, long braid that down her trim back, drawing attention to her petite build. Dark eyes lightly lined with kohl, resembling like that of her son's eyes and complementing her full, made up red lips. Her gray suit was expensive and designer looking, perhaps a Liz Clayborne or Fendi, Rachael thought, instead of the outfit she was used to seeing Indian woman wear of flowing robes and a scarf. The rock on her left hand was huge and glittered brightly even in the din of the restaurant, matching the platinum bracelet and simple earrings on her delicate lobes. Obviously, money was part of their family; Rachael observed trying hard not to wrinkle her nose at the thought.

Rachael thought of her humble townhouse in Piedmont and grimaced. It was modest, but kept up nicely in her opinion. It was still her kids' and her mansion as far as they were concerned. She knew that Siva's house was located in the Berkeley hills approximately thirty-five minutes away from her house when you counted traffic time. To purchase a house in the prominent hills, you had to be rolling in the dough and from the look of his mother and his car, it was certainly part of their everyday life.

"The same here. Well, I'm sure we'll be meeting again, if I know my son! I'll talk to you tonight," Sushmita empathized to Siva before turning away to join her partner at another table. Only the subtle whiff of her exotic perfume indicated her previous presence.

He smiled back slowly, diversely, knowing the questions would fly tonight over the phone and he shot a quick glance over at Rachael knowing that his mother had intentionally stared back at her as she spoke to her son.

"Well, if that wasn't the third degree look, I don't know what else to call it!" Rachael exclaimed after she made sure that Siva's mother was out of earshot.

"It was, trust me, if I know my mother," Siva barked with laughter. The tension was beginning to ease out of the both of them.

Rachael chuckled, again liking the sound of his deep laughter. Lunch was obviously over and Rachael felt that despite the harrowing experience with his mom, that she had thoroughly enjoyed the short training session that Siva had outlined for her duties.

"I really enjoyed lunch, Rachael," Siva added as they stood up, voicing her exact thoughts out loud. "I think that you'll be able to take over the rest of my tasks easily. As I've said before, I'm impressed with your work," he finished, laying a wad of money beside the receipt.

"Thank you," Rachael blushed, her face reddening over the compliment. What could she say? Actually, she wanted to jump up and down and scream out yeah! But refrained from doing so. At least someone had noticed her work. And it didn't hurt that it was Siva, as he was only head of the Prospect Developmental Project Team at ICSC in their Information Technology department.

Again, that sardonic grin appeared on his chiseled faced, "actually, we should be thanking you, as you've more than pulled your weight on this project."

"Stop it, I'm blushing already!" Rachael laughed and smirked at the same time as they began walking toward the exit. Male eyes trailed with appreciation after Rachael, who was totally unaware of her surroundings. The man beside her felt an immense satisfaction knowing that she was walking beside him and that the men watching them observed her with him.

"Well, it does bring up another issue that I wanted to address," he began, opening the exit door for her. Another couple brushed by them.

"And what is that?" Rachael glanced up gratefully, but frowned in process.

"I've already taken the liberty of ordering you a laptop for remote support from your home," he paused at her surprised look and continued, "and I'd like to get that laptop configured at your house as soon as possible, but I don't trust one of our techs to do the job the way I want it done."

"You mean, I mean, I can't do that-programming is fine, but dealing with configuring the operating system is another thing completely different," Rachael paused. They had reached his car.

"I know," Siva smiled reassuringly. His gaze swept over the burnished highlights that gleamed on her hair from the afternoon, autumn sun blazing down her head. Her gaze was so evergreen that they looked like a master painter had just stroked the design of her fabulous eyes. Her mouth was softly parted, an obvious question forming on those full lips of hers. His breath sucked in surprise, feeling his gut wrench, and then the feeling moved lower, lower in painful desire.

Rachael was about to ask him another question, hesitant and unsure as her gaze encountered his, emerald and midnight clashing in startling awareness. Her question died in her throat. She felt her knees wobble and had she not put her hand on his car door handle, she was sure that she would have slid down like a pool of melting ice.

Silently, he reached out and grabbed her doorknob, their hands briefly touching like an electrical bolt of lightening shooting up her arm that she flinched as if she had been singed. Rachael was sure that he could hear her heart clamoring away like wild bells. Their gazes still locked, Siva no longer smiling, clicked the door open, having unlocked the door with his remote car keys. Of their own accord, her eyes slid slowly over his harsh features, noting the planes on his face, the angle of his cheeks; the intense dark eyes that seemed to flare wildly like black smoke as her gaze continued their innocent sweep over his face.

She turned away slightly, her hands shaking as Siva opened the car door completely for her, breaking the sudden spell over them. Steadying herself and telling herself that it was just one of those things about being attracted to a co-worker that would fade, kind of thing, she asked, grimacing at the husky catch in her voice, "what do you intend to do?"

"What any man in my position would do," Siva stated, steadily, harshly, and Rachael had to wonder if they were talking about the same thing.

"And what is that?" She swallowed the lump in her throat, nervously. Her back tingled.

"Take care of the job, myself," he smiled back slowly, purposely, brilliantly.

"What?" She exclaimed, having completely lost the track of the conversation.

"How about I come over to your place, tomorrow? Say-sevenish?" Siva titled his dark head back arrogantly and making him seem so utterly handsome in the process that she continued to gap at him. He stared back at her, intensely.

"What, my place? She repeated feeling like an idiot and blinking in confusion now. She almost blurted out that it was out of question, then bit her tongue. The realization hit her completely after that and then panic set in.

"To configure the application and your system. I'll be over there tomorrow night," he finalized, his hand indicating to her seat in the car. "I'll need directions to your house, it's in Piedmont, right?"

"What? Oh, yeah, yeah," she answered, numbly getting into the car finally and getting over the shock that he'd come by her house tomorrow night. Good gracious, she had to get control of the thunder that was her heart, and was sure that he would notice how nervous she was feeling. My God, you'd think I was like some love-sick, star-spangled struck teenager around Siva, she thought.

And why did he have to look at her like that? There was so much-how did she describe it-was it heated?

Tiny beads of sweat formed on her forehead and she wondered if she'd be able to survive having him in her house. Then she imagined her children's reaction to a man coming over, despite that it only had to with her job and she managed to reframe from groaning out loud at the thought. However, in a way, for the first time since Kevin's death, Rachael suddenly felt alive, her heart hammering away within her ribcage like a flustered bird. Of course, she denied any of the thoughts or misgivings, and that she actually looked forward to having Siva coming over to her place with anticipation.

Stay tuned for the next part!