Saturday, 21 September 2019

Chapter 18 : Dangerous Desire (AR)

She IS The Culprit!


Armaan entered his house at night with his coat hanging over his shoulder. His talk with Riddhima repeatedly played in his mind. Was she the culprit? Has she been stealing the company's money? These questions occupied his mind.

"Bhai? Kya hua? Tum itne late kyun aaye?" He looked up and saw Abhi coming down the stairs.

"Abhi... tum Rahul aur Atul ko jaldi neeche bulao. Mujhe tum sab se kuch bohat important baat karni hain."

"Alright. You go freshen up. You're looking very tired." Armaan nodded and went up to his room.

Having a quick shower, he came down and saw his three brothers sitting down, waiting for him. He sat down on the cozy leather sofa and faced them.

"Armaan. Kya baat hain? What did you want to tell us?"

"Guys... woh CDs... woh..."


"Bolo Bhai. Un CDs ke baare mein kya?" Armaan sighed and closed his eyes for a moment before facing them again.

"Riddhima has those CDs."

"What?!"

"Haan. Aaj jab main usske cabin mein gaya tha toh mujhe..." Armaan narrated the entire incident. The trio were flabbergasted. Their hearts simply refused to accept that Riddhima would even want to commit a crime like this.

"Aisa kaise ho sakta hain? Riddhima aisa kaise kar sakti hain? I don't believe this!"

"Vishwaas toh mujhe bhi nahin ho raha Atul. But this is the truth. Or else why would she lie about them?"

"Pata nahin. Lekin mera dill yeh baat maanne ko tayaar nahin hain."

"Isska faisla toh CDs dekhne ke baad hi hoga. Main kuch bhi karke kal woh CDs le aaunga. We have to know the truth." Silence prevailed the room. The only thing you could hear was the breathing of the four.

"Tum jaake so jao Bhai. Tum thak gaye ho. Isske baare mein hum baad mein baat karte hain." Armaan nodded and went up to his room while the others didn't move an inch.

"Yeh kya ho raha hain yaar? Riddhima aisa kyun karegi?" asked Rahul.

"Pata nahin yaar. Lekin Bhai bhi toh sach keh raha hain."

"Ab sach ka pata toh sirf kal hi chalega. I just hope uss CD mein Riddhima na ho."

"Haan. Lekin guys. Iss baat ke baare mein kisi ko khabar nahin padni chahiye. Especially girls ko."

"Yeah. Just behave normal. Kisi ko kuch pata nahin chalna chahiye. Okay?" The all nodded.

"Let's go to bed now." They sighed and went into their rooms, silently praying for the best.

****

Armaan laid on his bed facing the fan hanging from the ceiling. If you looked from an outsider's view, you would say he was calm and composed. But in reality, his and heart were at war.

His heart kept saying Riddhima was innocent. She hadn't done anything wrong. On the other hand, his mind would fight back saying she is the culprit. She's the one that had been stealing the money. She isn't what she looks like.

Who was he supposed to believe? If he tried to believe his heart, his mind would interfere repeating her lie and if he agreed with his mind even one bit, his heart would play their moments together.

Those cute fights, her adorable and contagious laughter, the way she's been helping Anjali... everything just came back to him. Was all that just a lie? Was she doing all this just for money? Was she like other girls? Was she also like her? He felt his heart breaking into innumerable pieces for some reason. He felt as if he would just die if Riddhima was at fault. If Riddhima was at fault, he probably would just go back into his shell and this time, he probably won't ever come back.

Did he not know the changes Riddhima was bringing in him? He knew it all! Armaan wasn't the one who would argue with his secretary just because she had beat the crap out of him with a rod! He wasn't the one that would go to see a girl with an excuse of helping his brother out. He doesn't think about one particular girl all day long. Hell, he wouldn't think about girls at all! He would just use them to fulfil his sexual needs and that's about it. He wouldn't even think about them later. If he got them, he's good, if not, he doesn't give a crap. But here, not only did he think about Riddhima, but he even admired her features. That's something he never does. Why did he even care?

But as of now, he didn't want to think about it. Unfortunately, he only had questions. No answers. And he didn't want to fall deeper into the web of confusions.

Please tell me you're innocent Riddhima. Please.

Sleep evaded him as he kept thinking about Riddhima and why she would lie.

****

Muskaan sat on the window with a shy smile on her face. She pulled her knees up to her chest and rested her chin on her arm.

"Rahul." She whispered softly and felt color rising to her cheeks. She looked at her phone to see whether he called or not, but was disappointed when she didn't see any missed calls from him.

"Yeh Rahul bhi na. Ek baar bhi phone nahin kiya. Kya usse meri yaad nahin aati? Main toh usse baat hi nahin karungi. Humph!" Just then, her phone rang and a wide smile appeared on her face seeing Rahul's name.

"Nahin Muski. Itni aasaani se nahin. Usse thoda pareshaan karti hoon." Wiping the smile off her face, she put the phone against her ear and didn't say anything.

"Hey Muskaan." She heard Rahul from the other hand but didn't say anything. Rahul was confused.

"Maine tumhe phone nahin kiya, iss liye naaraaz ho mujhse?" Again he was faced with silence.

"I'm sorry. Woh... actually main Armaan se baat kar raha tha, iss liye phone nahin kar paaya. I'm very sorry. Please ab toh baat karo." Muskaan smiled but didn't say anything.

"Please Muskaan. Ab aise tadpao toh mat. Tumhe pata hain? Jab tak main tumhari aavaaz nahin sunta na, mujhe neend nahin aati. Please maaf kardo na. Please." Rahul thought of something and smiled. "I love you." Muskaan smiled.

"I love you too Rahul." He smiled widely and sat up on his bed.

"Finally tumne kuch kaha! Achha. Ab bolo. Kya kar rahi ho?"

"Kuch nahin. Window par baethke tumse baat kar rahi hoon."

"Missing me?" She was about to say yes, but then thought otherwise and gave him some attitude.

"Nahin toh. Main bhala kyun tumhe miss karne lagi?"

"Really? Tum mujhe miss nahin kar rahi?"

"Nope."

"Achha... toh theek hain. Main phone rakhta hoon." He acted like he's going to hang up, but stopped and smirked when he heard her.

"Nahin, nahin! Phone mat rakhna!" She said quickly, but bit her lip knowing this was Rahul's trick.

"Achha. So... tum mujhse baat karna chahti ho?" Muskaan started to fumble with words, but then got mad.

"Rahul. Mujhe tumse koi baat nahin karni. Bye." She quickly hung up but then blushed looking at the phone. Rahul smiled at his crazy girlfriend and shook his head.

"Pagal ladki." He chuckled and pulled the cover over his head.

****

Riddhima's thoughts were occupying Armaan's mind. He could only think about her, even when he drove to his office. Her lie kept playing in his mind. Why would she lie about the CDs? He had seen the label on the CDs and if it was sent by her granny, then why would she have the company's label on it? He wasn't a fool. Something was wrong and he had to find out quick.

He suddenly saw another car come in front of him and stopped with a jerk. He looked at the car in anger and got out of the car.

"Hey you!" Armaan yelled.

After a few moments, a young man in his 20s came out and Armaan's jaws clenched automatically. It was the person he despised.

"Devraaj Ahuja." He spat his name out with venom in his voice. Devraaj just smirked seeing the amount of anger and venom Armaan's tone held for him and walked to Armaan. He took off his glasses and looked at Armaan, who had a calm and composed face, but his eyes threw daggers at him.

"Armaan Mallik. Kaafi dinon ke baad mulaaqaat hui hain. It's so not a pleasure to meet you again." Armaan scoffed.

"The feeling is mutual Devraaj."

"So... ready to lose?" Armaan forward and looked him in the eye.

"Devraaj Ahuja. Armaan Mallik ne apni zindagi mein haarna nahin seekha. Agar koi haarega, toh tum."

"You're not gonna change. College ke time se aise hi ho. Same anger, same confidence. But unfortunately, this isn't gonna help you. Lonavla vaala tender toh main hi jeetunga. I promise."

"Don't you think tum zyaada hi over confident ho rahe ho?"

"Ab yeh toh waqt hi bataayega ki kaun jeetta hain. Mera over confidence, ya tumhara confidence."

"We'll see." Armaan went back into his car and drove off, while Devraaj just stood there and wore his glasses.

"Yes we will. Armaan Mallik."

****

Riddhima entered Armaan's cabin to tell him the schedule for the day. He appeared lost and had a coffee in his hand. Riddhima was worried for him as she observed him. He looked pale... weak... tired... drained... what was wrong with him?

"Sir?" She called out softly but he remained aloof to her. She called out several times but when he didn't answer, she raised her voice.

"Sir!" Armaan jumped in his seat, resulting the coffee to spill on his hands. He yelped in pain. Riddhima rushed to his side and held his hand.

"OMG! Armaan! A-are you okay? Oh God! Tumara haath toh... Main abhi first-aid lekar aati hoon." She brought the first-aid kit from her cabin and sat on her knees, taking care of his slightly burnt hand. She poured the antiseptic liquid on the cotton ball.

"Thoda jalega." As soon as the liquid came in touch with his skin, he winced in pain, but calmed down when he felt cool air on his hand. He looked at her. She had a frown on her face as she cleaned the wound, but made sure to blow air on it so he doesn't feel the pain. She bit her lower lip now and then. Armaan once again found himself being indifferent to the rest of the world. He just stared at her face and fear ran through his veins.

Riddhima... please keh do ki yeh tumne nahin kiya. Please keh do ki-ki someone's framing you. It can't be you! Yeh sab ek naatak nahin ho sakta. Tum bhale hi mujhse jhooth bolo lekin tumhari mujhse jhooth nahin bol sakti. Please Riddhima. Kaash yeh sab sirf ek bura sapna ho. Haqeeqat ke koso door. Main nahin chahta ki uss CD mein tum ho. Please Riddhima... please.

He thought to himself. Riddhima looked up and saw him staring intently at her. Her heart beats immediately rose. It was happening again. They were losing their senses once again, but they had no idea why. Armaan slowly lifted his hand and moved the locks of hair behind her ear.

Her gaze followed his movements. Looking into his eyes, she saw longing in them. It was as if he was pleading her. But for what? Somewhere inside her she knew what he wanted, but she was too dazed to know what was happening.

He slowly and gently caressed her soft cheeks. She closed her eyes absorbing his touch. His caress did wonders to her. Her lips parted by themselves and her heart beated at a jet speed. All sorts of desires woke in him. He didn't even know what he was doing or where he was. All he knew was he wanted to forget what was happening and go back to their normal selves, but that seemed far from reality.

"Riddhima" She opened her eyes and looked into his. As if getting a sudden jolt, her eyes widened in shock and immediately moved away from him.

"I-I'm sorry." She quickly took the kit and rushed out of his cabin.

Armaan looked at his hand. Riddhima had finished wrapping the bandaid around his hand and surprisingly he didn't even know when she did this. He held his head in his hands and sighed. He looked at the clocked which showed 9:00. Two hours... just two more hours and he'll find out the truth. Wishing for the tme to past by quickly, he busied himself in some work.

****

Armaan looked up from his laptop and saw the time. It was 10:55. Two hours had passed by in no time. Only 5 minutes were left until lunch time would start and he looked at the window. He walked to the window and opened the blinds. He saw Riddhima standing by her desk and closing her files. She picked up her purse and walked out of her cabin. Seeing the opportunity, he immediately walked in her cabin.

Armaan started to look around the cabin and again searched the drawers. He found the envelope which had the CDs and took them out to make sure it they were the same and then put them back and went out of the cabin.

He knew his brothers were having their lunch right now so he didn't call them now. He wanted to see the CDs now, but knew it would be better and safer to watch it with others. He quickly texted the trio.

When you're done with lunch, quickly come to the safe room. I got the CDs.

-Armaan

After a one, his cell phone beeped again and saw their text which said, 'Ok'. He thought to have his lunch quickly and after 15 minutes, he went to the safe room. The others shortly arrived after him.

"You got the CDs Armaan?"

"Yes."

"Then play it." He nodded and inserted the first CD in and hit play.

The video came up and once again, they saaw everything normal and the way italways is. Armaan was relieved when he didn't see any unsual happenings. He decided to forward the clip a bit and right then, he saw a shadow appear in the video and played it. They suddenly had all of their attention on the video.

They saw Riddhima coming and taking quiet, careful steps, looking around to see if anyone was coming or not. She had a different look on her face. She slowly opened the computer room's door and went inside.

Armaan's heart almost stopped seeing Riddhima there. What he feared the most was coming true. Beads of sweat broke out on his forehead.

After about 15 minutes, they saw Riddhima come out of the room. She looked around and a devilish smile formed on her lips. She took out her phone and dialed a number.

"Hello?"

"Haan. Maine bank se paise nikaal liye hain. Kal subah tak paise vahaan par pohanch jaayenge."

"Thank you."

The person on the other end said somthing which made her laugh.

"Inn sab ko bevakoof banaana bohat easy tha. Sab ke saath achhe se baat karo, apni thodi smartness dikhao. Bas. Sab ko apna deewana bana diya. Aur dekho na. Sab ab mujh pe adha vishwaas karte hain. Bas. Ab main dheere dheere company ke saare paise saaf kar dungi aur kisi ko mujh par shak bhi nahin hoga. Achha theek hain. Main phone rakhti hoon. Koi aa raha hain."

She hung up and went out. After this, the screen went blank.

The boys were shocked. The just couldn't believe their eyes and ears. This was Riddhima? What happened to their Riddhima? She had been playing a game all this while? Their trusts had been badly broken, especially Armaan's. His eyes had become bloody red. He clenched his jaws tight and curved his fingers into a hard fist.

"I don't believe this. Humaari Riddhima sia kaise kar sakti hain?" said Atul.

"Jo bhi ho. Yeh hi sach hain. Riddhima IS the culprit."

Abhi looked at Armaan. After listening to Atul and Rahul, he had become furious. He was angry. Not at Riddhima, but at himself because he even dared to think Riddhima was any different from others. Even she was like those gold diggers.

"Armaan? Are you okay?"

Instead of replying, he angrily walked out of the room, leaving the trio scared to death. They knew something was gonna happen today. Something very bad.

He walked in the corridors of the office angrily. The information he had just found out left him bewildered. She was lie? A fraud? Was she just playing with him for her own purpose all this while? All these questions roamed in his mind, making him even more angry. He walked in long strides, his eyes bloodshot red, ready to murder someone. He opened the door angrily and saw her keeping things in order. Anger took over him and he went to her. He turned her around angrily and without thinking twice, he slapped her, making her fall on the couch behind her.

Riddhima touched her cheeks and looked at him in shock. Did he just slap her? There was rage in his eyes. Fury, madness, hatred... but why? What was going on? She was scared of him. She saw Atul, Rahul and Abhi enter the cabin, panting badly. They just stared at Riddhima and Armaan in shock. Her eyes started to well up seeing the amount of hatred in his eyes and slowly got up.

Both stared into each others eyes. One had hatred, then the other had confusion. One by one, the entire office gathered in Riddhima's cabin. All were shocked to know that Armaan had slapped Riddhima. All they wanted, was answers.

"Ar-Ar-maan. Tu-tumne mujhe-"

"Shut up! Just shut up!" He shouted, making her tremble in her place.

"Armaan! What's going on? Tum Riddhima se aise kyun baat kar rahe ho?" Niki stepped forward and stood in front of Armaan, shielding Riddhima.

"Niki. Riddhima is a bloody fraud!"

"What?"

"Yes. Pichhle ek mahine se yeh company ke paise nikaal rahi hain. Hum sab ko issne bevakoof banaaya hain. Apne matlab ke liye, issne hum sab ke saath yeh khel khela." Niki couldn't believe what he said.

"Armaan! Tum jaante bhi ho tum kya bol rahe ho!"

"Bhai is right Niki." Said Abhi. Niki looked at him and knew he was right. He wasn't lying. Niki turned around and looked at Riddhima. Anjali and Muskaan walked to her.

"Is he saying the truth?" asked Anjali. Riddhima looked at the ground and didn't say a word.

"Ridz. Bol na sab ko ki tune kuch nahin kiya! Bol na!" Riddhima still didn't say anything. Muskaan just looked at her.

"Riddhima? Kya... Armaan sach keh raha hain?" For a moment, no one spoke. Time had seemed to stop for all of them. They silently prayed Riddhima would she's innocent and hasn't done anything. Riddhima closed her eyes and finally spoke.

"Haan."

****

Medha

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