Sunday, 14 January 2018

part 2 : It all Depends on Love(AR)

"You are seriously proposing that I marry you in order to get Sanjivani back?"

He nodded." There is no other way." He added reasonably, "Regard it simply as a business move. You are a business woman, after all, as you keep reminding me. We need only remain married long enough to make the thing look respectable… say, six months or so. I sign over the company to you, then we divorce and you and your brother have got what you want."

As tough reading her mind, he went on to inform her, I am sure the terms of contract could be drawn up privately between our lawyers. Just in case you are worried I might try to back out of the deal.

"Why?" she asked him at last, "You are as much as a businessman as I am a businesswoman. What would you be getting out of such a deal?"

He smiled one of those superior, irritating smiles. "Don't you think that being married to such a woman as yourself, even for so brief period, would be reward enough for any man?"

"What I think… is that a hard nosed businessman like yourself would never contemplate a contract of any kind, unless he had something very substantial to gain from it for himself."

He shrugged. "Ok, I have my reasons. But I prefer to keep them to myself; this is the only way you will get Sanjivani back"

."It's a preposterous suggestion." She insisted

"Preposterous or no, it's your only chance." With an amused smile he added " I certainly have no intention of making a similar proposal to your brother."

"Very funny." She glared at him

"If you want Sanjivani as bad as you say, you would be wise to think seriously about my offer; I'll give you forty-eight hours, Miss Gupta. If I don't hear from you by then, I shall assume that my proposal is unacceptable and that will be the end of that. Think well." He added regarding her coolly. "You won't get a second chance."


For the next two days Riddhima could think of nothing else.

The only person Riddhima had mentioned Armaan Mallik's proposal to was Atul joshi……. Atul Joshi, her business partner and the director of Sanjivani. He joined sanjivani four years back as an assistant and because of his hard work; soon get into the good books of Riddhima's father Rohan Gupta…

Atul's habitual composed features had creased into expression disbelief. " Was he serious?" he demanded. "Why would he do such a thing?"

"I just wish I knew what was behind this move." Riddhima smiled.

"You have got until tomorrow evening, you say? Relax, Riddhima, just leave it to me."

It was on the after noon of the following day, just few hours before Armaan's deadline expired and Riddhima was in her office sorting out some papers for the presentation. Suddenly the phone rang, her assistant, answered it.

"It's Mr. Joshi for you" her assistant informed her

Anxiously Riddhima grabbed the phone, "Hey Atul, what's happening."

"Riddhima I think you should come over straight away. I have just made an interesting discovery that explains Armaan Mallik's proposal to you."

Riddhima felt her heart lurch. "I'll be over in ten minutes." She promised


Atul Joshi's office

"You will never guess what our solicitors have turned up."

"What?" she asked impatiently

"It's so simple, the reason that Armaan Mallik proposed to you is quite simple that he needs a wife."

Riddhima blinked. "Needs a wife? What the hell do you mean by that?"

"I mean, Riddhima that his great Uncle Shashank had inserted in the charter another little clause that his equally great nephew omitted to tell you about." He smiled widely as he played his trump card. "It transpires that control of the Mallik companies can only be assumed by a married man."

"Thank you so much for this information." She raised her head and took a deep breath. There were still a couple of hours to go before Armaan Mallik's deadline expired. With a sigh she started to stand up. "If you don't mind, I would like to go now and have a quiet think by myself."

"Of course."

'I'll let you know what I decide."

Difficult decisions should always be made in surroundings that inspired peace of mind. She drove to a favourite old family picnic spot.

It was deserted now as she parked the car, the sun already beginning to set, fiery red in a clear sky. She leaned against the steering wheel, stared outside and tried to straighten the confusion in her head.

The problem was that, her head was in open conflict with her heart. Her head said "Be cool, treat it as a business move." But her heart was telling her "Beware, He is the same Armaan Mallik, you met two years ago."

The weight of responsibility for Rahul was crushing her, but the fear she felt still held her back. Was she really tough enough to make that ultimate sacrifice?

A chill went through her. She closed her eyes.

2 Years Ago:

"Go away and rest for three months and don't dare come back earlier," Atul Joshi told Riddhima Gupta, though she wanted to plead that a month would be enough, she remained silent. No one argued with the great business tycoon Atul Joshi, least of herself, who had been his business partner after completing her MBA in marketing two years ago.

And what a tough two years they had been! She had worked herself into the ground, literally.

"Buy yourself some pretty clothes and go on a cruise." Atul Joshi broke into her thoughts, "Or hibernate in the country and pick flowers, But whatever you do, don't think about business… just forget it for three years… you are too young to work like that..."

Easy advice to give, but not to follow, Riddhima thought gloomily, when you lifelong ambition since you were ten had been to be a most successful business women.

"I'll stay at my Father's house," she said "Unfortunately he is no more but his housekeeper will enjoy herself mothering me."

Atul studied Riddhima's fragile features: wide hazel eyes, thick dark lashes, milk and roses complexion, a delicately shaped mouth, a firm chin and thick black hair.

She was only twenty four but looked nineteen. His mouth twitched humorously as he remembered their first meeting, and her efforts to make herself appear older: her hair scraped into a bun, horn rimmed glasses and loose clothes to add bulk to her figure. Thank goodness that phase that phase had not lasted for so long...


Gupta House

Riddhima was searching for her key when the front door of Gupta mansion was opened by a plump women in her fifties.

"Riddhima! How lovely to…" Mrs. Mehta broke off as she was knocked by a huge sheep dog." God, that dog!" housekeeper exclaimed. "There is a gap in the garden wall and he keeps going through it to the Mallik's Hall… Oh God Riddhima, you are thin as a pin. Thank goodness you are being sensible and taking a holiday."

Returning the old woman's motherly hug, Riddhima heaved her case from the car and entered the house, leaving her thing in the hall; she followed Mrs. Mehta into the kitchen for a longed cup of tea.

"So, what are the Malliks like?" Riddhima enquired

"It's Mallik in the singular." Mrs. Mehta said. "He is Shashank Mallik's nephew. A proper business tycoon, he is."

"I hope they don't make much noise, I came here for peace and quiet."

"It's mostly quiet," the housekeeper assured her. "They are a very well behaved lot and keep themselves to themselves."

"Lot?" Riddhima's curiosity stirred further. "I thought there was only Mr. Mallik?"

"And his group."

"His what?"

"Group, He owns Mallik Software, and has about a dozen people here, dreaming up programs for him."

"I am surprised he use the Hall for business, why not proper office?" she commented

"He only has his group here, his factory is quite far from here, according to his housekeeper, he spends most of his time in the west wing, he is turned it into his private home. It's a quite big mansion."

Recollecting Atul's advice that she should start thinking of her personal life, she debated whether to invite the Mallik's group over informal 'getting to know the neighbours' party. Of course, she would check with Mr. Mallik first. If he was a strict man like her Father, he might not want his employees to socialize with the neighbours in case it deflected them from their work

She unpacked, washed and went to her bed to have a sound sleep.

Next Morning

"Good morning Riddhima," her housekeeper wished. "I have put the cushions on the hammock for you. Have your breakfast and enjoy the beautiful weather."

"First, I am going to see about the gap in the wall after having my breakfast."

Breakfast over, she collected the newspaper from the front doorstep, tucked it under her arm to read later and set off to the garden to examine Jerry's escape route."

What on earth has dislodged the centuries-old stones? She bent down and crawled through the hole. Immediately she had her answer. A tall cypress yards away had spread its roots under the foundation and weakened it.

"Practising to be a cat?" a terse male voice questioned behind her.

Startled Riddhima remained motionless, Cat? Then, realizing that bending had put her in a less then dignified position, she hurriedly straightened and turned raising her eyes to introduce herself to the man. He was well built and the handsomest male she had ever met. She studied his handsome features carefully: fine boned face, eyes blue of sapphires, thick eyebrows, a strong nose and a wide, curling mouth, top lip well defined, lower one full and sensual.

Though his survey of her was general, , she was conscious of her stomach tightening with the desire that spread lower and grew stronger. This was insane! Snap out of it, she ordered herself, you are simply tired and a prey to your imagination, for the first time in her life she was physically overwhelmed by a man.

"Finished?" he asked, frowning at her with those incredible blue eyes of his.

"Finished??" she repeated

"Looking me over. If there is any looking to be done, I am the one to be doing it."

"Oh, really?"

"I have had so many loonies applying. I intend making sure I pick the right one."

"Applying for what?' Riddhima questioned

A long foot nudged the newspaper she had dropped to the ground when examining the wall. "The advertisement, of course, I assume you are here in answer to it?"


"Dammit! Are you a parrot as well as a cat?"

"There is no need to be rude." Riddhima was about to walk away when the truth of the situation dawned on her. This man had put an advertisement in the local newspaper and had mistaken her for an applicant.

"I am afraid you are mistaken, Mr….. er…?"

"Armaan Mallik."

Oh my God! He is the tycoon who own Mallik software. She had imagined him older and shorter but he is the most handsome man she had ever met…

"Well?" he asked, "Aren't you going to tell me about yourself? Or do you want me to engage you on looks alone?"

"Physical attributes has nothing to do with ones ability, Mr. Mallik."

"Not that you meet my requirements, anyway. You are only a kid."

The impulse to hit him was almost irresistible for Riddhima, "I am older than I look," was all she said

"Which is?"



"Spot on!" Unexpectedly, she decided to play along with him a while longer.

"I suppose I may as well interview you now you are here," he muttered "You can't be worse than the others."

She asked sweetly, "What does the job entail?"

"Exactly what it said in the advertisement."

This stumped her, "One can't put everything in the advertisement." She rejoined finally
"Basically, I need someone to stand in for one or other of my domestic staff on their days off, or if one of them is ill. I can't afford any disruption in my household," he explained. "It has to run like a computer."

"Computers can go wrong," she said, straight faced

"Mine don't, Anyways," he went on "You really think you can manage this job, Miss… er…?"


"Riddhima what?"

"Riddhima khanna" she lied

Aware of his eyeing her old jeans and sweater with distaste, she said quickly, "I don't usually dress this way."

"I should hope not."

Riddhima wanted to kick herself for giving him the chance to insult her. How she dressed was no concern of his.

"I doubt it will work," he muttered, "You are far too young. What have you done since leaving school?

The question caught her and she stared at him dumbly.

"Don't tell me you are a drop out?" he exclaimed " Hmm," he muttered before taking the blackberry from his pocket. "What is your address and telephone number? In case I decide to engage you."

"I live next door." She said brightly

"How come?" A thick eyebrow winged up

" I am house sitting for Mr. Gupta."

"As far as I know, he is no more."

" I mean his daughter, Miss Gupta."

" You mean she has given the run of his home to a girl like you?"

"That's enough!" Riddhima protested" What do you mean by that? You know nothing about me."
"Except that you are a girl with a gallon of temper and an ounce of brain."

"Then why bother interviewing me?"

"Because I am amused you think yourself capable of doing the job."

"It sounds dead easy to me. You don't need a great brain to stand in for a maid or a cook on her day off."

"You are quitting your job next door, then?"

"I have hardly anything to do there. Mrs. Mehta is teaching me how to manage before she goes on holiday. But there is little to learn, and I am free most of the time,"

"And when she is away?"

" I can manage the two jobs. All I have to do is dust and take care of the dog."

"I assume you have references?"

"How can I have any reference, when I am a drop out?"

"Have you ever trained for anything?"

"Not likely, Life is too short to waste it in some boring nine-to-five job."

"You are wasting your life. You could be a gardener, nursery school teacher, a nurse."

"A nurse?" Riddhima's voice raised, "I can't think of anything worse. That blood an pain….. ugh!"

"All right, you have made your point," he said "If you are happy to waste your life so be it."

"I am hardly wasting it," she widened her eyes at him. " I am only eighteen and most of it is in front of me."

His mouth quirked with the first sign of humour, " Don't bat those thick lashes at me, Miss, Khanna, I am quite older than you….. you are just kid."

"All right then," she said cheekily and started to leave

"Hang on a minute," he called "Don't you want the job?"

"You mean you would give It to me?"
"I may not have a choice. I'll wait for few days and see if I get anyone better."

"Good luck, then, Mr. Mallik." Reaching the damaged section of the wall, she stopped. "It's the roots of your cypress that have dislodged the stones," she called to him. "You should better have it fixed."

"I'll tell my estate manager to look into it."

Only when she was out of his sight and hearing did she let her amusement ripple into laughter. It had been naughty of her to carry on the joke for so long, but Mr. high and Mighty needed this………



"My Dear Riddhima," he told her, "You really mustn't let such a small intimacy upset you," he reminded her with relish, "After all you and I are practically husband and wife."

"Damn you, Armaan Mallik!" she muttered to herself, "Don't you dare try another trick like that!"



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