Monday, 23 September 2019

Chapter 20 : Dangerous Desire (AR)

Strange... Mysterious...


The next few days passed by in a jiffy. After Riddhima had left Mallik Empires, nothing was the same. There was no fun in the office anymore. Armaan had returned back to his old ways and kept himself even more busy to keep Riddhima off his mind.


It was the same with others. They kept themselves busy and when they would gather up together, it would just be a silent gathering.


Today was an important day for Mallik Empires as the Lonavla Tender's decision would be made today. Armaan was having this feeling that something was going to happen today. But couldn't exactly pin point what. He was excited, yet nervous and even he didn't know why.




In about an hour, Anjali informed the brothers it was time for them to go. Armaan told the trio to go first as he needed to finish some work and would join them shortly, to whic they agreed and left. He soon finished his work and left for the meeting.


As he drove to the meeting, his thoughts drifted off to his first encounter with Riddhima. He remember how angry she had been and how she had told him off in the first meeting itself. He chuckled at the way her eyes would widen and mouth would fly open when he said any ridiculous. His expressions softened as he recalled their kiss. Even though he had been drunk throughout the entire kiss, he still felt the magic. His heart fluttered at the thought of holding her in his arms and feeling her lips on his.


As soon as he realized where his thoughts were heading, he immediately reprimanded himself for thinking about her. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He opened his eyes and immediately stopped the car as he saw a scooty come in front of him.


"Oh shit!" He grew angry and came out of the car.


"Andhi ho kya? Dikhaayi nahin deta kya!"


The driver took off the helmet and Armaan was shocked. It was none other than Riddhima!


"Riddhima?" He whispered.


"Andhi main nahin tum ho." He scrunched his brows together in confusion.


"Matlab?"


"Yeh ek four way intersection hain. Aur abhi red signal hain. So galti tumhari hain." Armaan was least interested in what she way saying.


"Tumhari problem kya hain? Kyun baar baar mere saamne aa jaati ho?"


Armaan kept talking but then he realized she wasn't listening to him. She was looking some place else with a slight scared face. He followed her gaze and saw a black van standing there. He couldn't see who they were but was sure they weren't good people. As soon as one of them saw Armaan looking at their direction, they quickly drove away and Armaan looked at Riddhima. She exhaled and whispered a faint, 'Thank God'.


She moved to her scooty and started to wear the helmet when Armaan's voice stopped her.


"Kahaan jaa rahi ho tum?"


"Tumse matlab?"


"Seedhe seedhe mere savaal ka javaab do."


"I don't think I have to answer you Mr. Mallik."


"And I think you do."


"Fine. Main ghar jaa rahi hoon."


"Lekin tumhara ghar toh uss taraf hain na?"


"Main apne nahin apne friend ke ghar jaa rahi hoon. And please. I don't wanna waste my time anymore. Bye." Armaan observed her for a second. It seemed as if she was in a hurry and appeared slightly jumpy, but Armaan thought he was thinking too much and brushed the thoughts off. Riddhima quickly started her scooty and drove away leaving Armaan wondering to himself.



Yeh Riddhima ko kya ho gaya hain? Why is she behaving like this? Aise achaanak meri gaadi ke saamne aa jaana, mujhse thodi daer baat karna, meri taraf dhyaan nahin dena, unn anjaan logon ki taraf dekhna, aur phir aise achaanak chale jaana. What's going on here? This is very strange. Why is Riddhima being so mysterious? Why does it seem as if she's hiding something? Kahin yeh...


The sound of some cars honking brought him back.


"Oh Bhai! Chalo gaadi hataao!" Armaan remembered he had to go for the meeting and quickly got in the car and drove away.


He reached the place soon and saw the trio waiting outside. Giving the keys to the watchman, he walked up to the trio.


"Armaan, where were you? Itni daer kaise lag gayi?"


"Woh, actually traffic bohat zyaada tha. Iss liye daer lag gayi."


"Oh, okay."


"Ab jaldi chalo. Meeting kuch hi daer mein shuru hone waali hain."


"Haan. Chalo."



****


They entered the conference hall and saw a few people already seated in their respective seats. Armaan's eyes fell on Devraaj and his dad, Rajendra Ahuja. His dad whispered something in an angry Devraaj's ear. His eyes shot up and he glared at Armaan. Armaan was confused. Why was he glaring at him?


Brushing the thoughts off, they sat down in their seats. Armaan looked at Devraaj as he heard his cell phone ring. He picked it up and talked to the other person on line. He seemed to be mad one moment and bewildered the other. He suddenly looked at Armaan and his face hardened. He quickly said and hung up. Armaan was even more confused. Why was Devraaj so angry? But he cared less about it.


Very soon, the main party, Suraj Chaudhry, arrived and there was complete silence in the room.


"Hello everyone. So the time all of us were waiting for has finally arrived. Well... this time the decision was a very difficult one to make. Everyone had done a good job. But after all, we had to make a decision. So this tender goes to..." He paused and looked at his assistant who handed him some papers. "The tender goes to Ahuja Constructions!" Armaan was shocked. He had really expected to get this tender. He looked at Devraaj who had a victorious smirk on his face. Everyone clapped for him as he went up to the stage. Suraj handed him the file that held the tender papers and people clapped once again.


The meeting was soon over and most people left after congratulating Devraaj. Armaan was about to leave but Devraaj stopped him.


"Armaan Mallik." He turned around and looked at him.


"What do you want?"


"Mujhe congratulate nahin karoge?" Armaan scoffed.


"No. Not interested." Devraaj stepped closer to him and looked him in the eye.


"Tch... tch... tch. Kaha tha na maine? Yeh tender toh mujhe hi milega. Aise nahin... toh waise. Tum hi nahin maan rahe the. Ab nateeja dekh liya na."


"Just because tumhe yeh tender mill gaya hain isska yeh matlab nahin ki tumne mujhe beat kar diya. Ek baat yaad rakhna Mr. Devraaj Ahuja. Armaan Mallik business ki duniya ka king hain. And no matter what you do. You can never beat me. Chalo guys." Armaan left with the others and Devraaj just smirked.


"Yeh toh waqt hi bataayega Armaan."




****


Armaan sat in his cabin making the pen dance around his fingers. He was wondering about the person that had called him and told him to change the figures for the tender. He now regretted listening to her. Who was she anyways? He had to find out. He took out his cell phone and went through his calls. He finally found the number that he had been called through and called it.


He was more than confused when a computerized voice said the number didn't exist anymore.


"Yeh sab ho kya raha hain? Issne mujhe phone kiya but this number doesn't exist. Ab kaise pata lagaaun mujhe phone kisne kiya?" Armaan closed his eyes and thew his head back. His encounter with Riddhima this morning came back into his mind and he instantly opened his eyes.




Yeh Riddhima itna ajeeb kyun behave kar rahi hain? Achaanak sabke saath itna rude behavior... itna mysterious kyun behave kar rahi hain? Hum sab ke saath rudely behave karti hain to samajh mein aata hain kyunki hum kuch din pehle hi usske dost bane. Lekin Muskaan? Muskaan toh usski behen jaisi hain na? Sagi behenon se bhi zyaada pyaar hain dono mein. Then why is she doing this?


Aur aaj subah achaanak mere saamne toh aayi, lekin itni baat nahin ki. Unn anjaan logon ki taraf dekhti rahi. And she looked like she was in a big hurry. Something's going on with her.


Kahin... no. I'm sure yeh bhi usski koi chaal hogi. Woh phirse yahaan aane ke liye yeh sab kar rahi hogi. After all. Itni achhi actress jo hain woh. Kitni achhi tarah se ek bholi bhaali ladki ka naatak kiya ussne. Hum sab ko kitni achhi tarah se ussne bevakoof bana diya. Itna sab kuch karti rahi, lekin kisi ko kuch bhanak tak nahin lagne di.


So smart. Lekin Ms. Riddhima Gupta. Main tumhe phirse apne maksat mein kaamyaab nahin hone dunga. I promise you. Tumhe yeh hi lagta hain na ki yeh company tumhare bina nahin chal sakti? I'll prove you wrong. Main tumhe dikha dunga ki Mallik Empires ek maamuli employee par dependant nahin hain. Dekhna tum.


****


"Coffee?" Atul looked up and saw Anjali in front of him with coffee in her hand.


"Thanks." He gave her a small smile and took the coffee from her hand.


"Kya hua? What are you thinking?"


"Kuch nahin."


"Riddhima?" He looked at Anjali and nodded.


"I miss her."


"Me too. Mujhe toh abhi bhi yakeen nahin ho raha ki Riddhima aisa kar sakti hain."


"Yakeen toh mujhe bhi nahin aa raha."


"Sach kahun toh iss waqt mujhe itna gussa aa raha hain na. Humne uss par itna bharosa kiya, usse apna dost maana aur ussne humaare saath hi aisa kiya. That's just ridiculous."


"I know. Lekin jo hua usse hum change toh nahin kar sakte na."


"Hmm. You're right. Ab chalo. Tum coffee pee lo. Usske baad mujhe drop kar dena. Ok?" He smiled and gave her a nod.



****


It was about 11 at night. Armaan was wrapping up his stuff and was fixing to leave when his office phone started to ring. He was surprised. Usually he stopped getting calls around 9 as people think he has already left. But who was calling him now?


"Hello?" He answered but no one replied.


"Who's it?" Again, he received no answer but he knew someone was there because he could hear the sound of someone breathing.


"Look. If this is a prank call, you better cut this crap now.


"Armaan... remember me?" Armaan was getting exhasperated with every passing second.


"Can you stop with the riddles and tell me who you are?" He heard the woman laugh at this.


"Armaan... you're not gonna change. You and your short temper. And lagta hain tum mujhse milne ke liye bohat impatient ho rahe ho. Well darling, you'll come to know who I am tomorrow morning. So good night and take care. Muaah. And yeah. Get ready for some surprises." And she hung up with that.


Armaan was even more confused. This girl seemed to know him very well. But how? Who was she? Putting the thoughts and questions aside, he went out of the office.


He got in his car and was about to start it when he saw a note behind the steering wheel. He picked it up and read it.



Confused? I know. I just wanted to say I'm missing you a lot. Remember kisses and make outs in the car? I miss those nights a lot. Anyways. Drive safe and stop stressing so much. Happy driving baby! Muaah. Xoxo


Armaan was surprised again. Who was this girl? Kisses and make outs in car? There were so many girls he had kissed in the car! What kind of hint was that? He thought to forget about it and went to his house.



****


Armaan sat on the dining table along with Atul, Rahul and Abhi. They were having their dinner together in silence.


"Bhai. Are you okay?" asked Abhi.


"Haan. Mujhe kya hoga?"


"Woh... hume woh tender nahin mila... iss liye."


"Tender nahin mila toh kya hua? Yeh dunya ka aakhri tender thodi hain. Aur bhi bohat milenge."


"Hmm... woh toh hain."


"Lekin Bhai. Tumne jo uss Devraaj ko kaha na, I swear. Usska chehra dekhne laayak tha. Gusse se laal, harra, neela, peela ho raha tha. Kyun Rahul?"


"Haan. It was so funny!" They chuckled at this.


"Lekin guys. Ek problem hain."


"Kya?"


"Actually... tender ki meeting se ek do week pehle mujhe kisi anjaan ladki ka phone aaya tha. Ussne mujhse kaha ki main apne quotes badal doon. She said ki yeh sab kuch mere achhe ke liye hain. And I changed them. Lekin aaj jab maine uss number par dobara phone kiya, toh number existense mein hi nahin tha."


"What?"


"Haan."


"Lekin Armaan. Tumne toh hume isske baare mein kabhi kuch bataaya hi nahin."


"Haan... woh main bhool gaya tha."


"Armaan tum bhi na!"


"Lekin woh ladki thi kaun?"


"I don't know."


"Ab toh hum phone company ko call karke bhi pata nahin laga sakte. The number doesn't even exist."


"Hmm... lekin guys, chhodo na. Jo ho gaya so ho gaya. Ab isske baare mein soch kar koi fayeda nahin. Armaan. Tum jaake so jao. Hum sab bhi so jaate hain."


"Hmm. Good night guys." Armaan went up to his room and the others also started to leave when suddenly Rahul's phone rang.


"Hello?"


"Who's this?"


"Is this..." They saw Rahul going pale as he heard the person on the phone.


"N-no. It's not like that."


"Oh, ok."


"When are you coming?"


"What?" The two were even more confused now. Who was he talking to?


"Oh, ok. Bye." He hung up and looked at the duo.


"Kya hua Rahul? Who was it?"


"She's coming back." He whispered.


"Who?" Rahul looked up.



****


Armaan entered his room and saw a bouquet on his bed.


"Bouquet? Yeh mujhe kisne bheja?" He went closer and saw there was a note in there as well. He took it and read it.



Hello Mr. Mallik. So you've finally saw this? Do you realize how much you've tortured this bouquet? It was craving to be touched by you. Still haven't recognized me? Don't worry. You'll come to know this tomorrow morning. Patience is the key sweetheart. xoxo


Armaan was getting angry now. This girl had given him a call, managed to get into his car, and now his bedroom! That was the limit!


"Bi! Shehnaz Bi!" He shouted. In about a minute, Bi came in and looked at him worriedly.


"Kya hua Baba?"


"Bi. Yeh bouquet yahaan par kisne rakha?"


"Pata nahin."


"Pata nahin? Bi mere kamre mein koi yeh bouquet rakh kar gaya aur aapko pata bhi nahin chala?"


"Baba... hume maaf kar dijiye. Woh... hum kuch daer ke liye ghar se baahar gaye the. Shaayad tab hi koi aaya hoga."


"Koi baat nahin. Lekin aage se dhyaan rakhna."


"Ji." With this, she left the room and Armaan threw the bouquet in the trash can and went to sleep.



****


The next day, Armaan was walking back and forth in his cabin with a file in his hand when suddenly, he felt a pair of hands covering his eyes.


"Who is it?" he spoke angrily.


"Pehchaano mujhe." A female voice whispered in his ears. Armaan had enough of this. He pulled her hands off his eyes and turned around swiftly, only to get the shock of his life. His heart started to beat faster. He felt blood drain out of his body as he saw the smile on her lips and the mischief in her eyes. Reality had hit him hard now.


"Tum?" He whispered in an inaudible voice.



****

Medha

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