Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Chapter 8 : Dangerous Desire (AR)

 Is She the One?

Riddhima rushed to the kitchen and stopped at the counter.  She closed her eyes to control her erratic heartbeat.  She could feel her heart pumping wildly against her ribs, threatening to tear it apart and come out.  She still couldn't accept the fact that they almost kissed!  She didn't even know him so well and if she hadn't pushed him away then they definitely would have kissed!  But his eyes... those electic blue eyes... they were different.  She has seen them before.  But where?  Where has she seen them?

"Stop it Riddhima.  Just stop it.  Ho jaata hain.  And you didn't kiss him right?  So just forget about it aur coffee bana.  Tujhe project bhi toh complete karna hain na?  Breathe in," She took in a deep breath.  "and breathe out." She exhaled slowly.  Brushing off the thought, she looked around, trying to find the coffee and finally found them.  She quickly made their coffee and walked out of the kitchen.

Just when she entered the living room, she suddenly crashed into someone really hard and gasped.  She was shocked to see the mugs falling and shattering on the floor.  She looked up and saw Armaan fuming in anger.


"Tum dekh ke nahin chal sakti kya?" Riddhima became angry at his remark.

"Yea.  I'm an nocturnal animal ain't I?  Andhere mein mujhe toh saaf, saaf dikhta hain na?  I thought tum mein itni akal toh hogi hi.  Aur mister.  Tum bhi toh dekh kar nahin chal rahe the."

"Just shut up!  Mere kapde kharab kar diye!"

"Oh ho, ho, ho, ho!  I'm very sorry Sir!  Meri vajah se aapke kapde kharab ho gaye?  Tch, tch, tch, tch, tch.  Mujhe toh saza milni chahiye na?" She said in sugary tone which angered him even more.

"Natak band karo Riddhima!  Ab iss ko kaun saaf karega?"

"Oye!  Main kya tumhari naukrani lagti hoon?  Jo tumhara harr kaam karegi?  Khood saaf karo." She crossed her arms across her chest and rolled her eyes.

"Mere ghar mein mujh hi ko order de rahi ho?"

"Kyun?  Tum insaan nahin ho kya?"

"Look.  You're crossing your limits."

"Toh?  Kya kar loge?" She placed her hands on her hips and raised her brows, making them twitch.

"Go to hell!"

"I'll meet you right there!"

"Tum na!" He pointed his finger at her and she tried to bite it but he pulled it back.

"Main kya?"

"You're impossible!"

"I know!"

Just then, the lights came back on and they saw every single soul living in the house on the stairs.  They just stared at the duo with their mouths hanging open due to shock.  This was the second time Atul, Muskaan and Rahul had seen them bickering, but apart from them, three more people were in the room-Abhi, Niki, and Anjali.  They were hell shocked seeing Armaan arguing with Riddhima like a five year old!  This wasn't the Armaan they would see everyday!  This was someone new and he was scaring them.

"Bh-Bhai... you are... arguing with... Riddhima?" Abhi asked in shock.

"Arre Abhi yeh toh roz ka hain.  Yeh roz mere se bina vajah ladta hain."

"Main bina vajah ladta hoon?"

"Haan!"

"Forget you!" Saying this, both headed to upstairs.  They bumped into each other.  After glaring at each other, they went up.  The rest were utterly shocked seeing Armaan and Riddhima's childish banter.  They fought like five year old!  Who does that?

"Rahul.  What the hell was that?  Mujhe toh kuch samajh nahin aa raha." Niki asked.

"Mujhe bhi kuch samajh nahin aa raha.  Yeh dono toh ek doosre ke jaani dushman hain."

"Lekin kyun?"

"Main bataati hoon." Muskaan narrated everything to them.  Their encounter that day, their meeting in the office and everything that happen onwards.  Niki and Abhi were astounded hearing about them.  They had never thought in their life that Armaan is gonna be fussing with a girl like that.  And a girl retorting back, was completely out of question.

"Bhai wapas aa raha hain.  Riddhima usse wapas la rahi hain.  Aur yeh baat toh khud usse bhi nahin pata."

"Haan Abhi.  Armaan wapas aa raha hain.  Riddhima dheere dheere kar ke humara Armaan wapas la rahi hain.  Armaan woh chaar saal pehle waala Armaan ban raha hain."

"Shayad aaj bhi ek umeed baaki hain.  Aur woh umeed Riddhima hain."

"Lekin kya Riddhima bhi uss ki tarah Armaan ko chhod nahin degi?" Anjali asked.

"Nahin Anj.  Riddhima aisa kabhi nahin karegi.  Woh uss ki jaisi nahin hain.  Riddhima won't use Bhai for her own benefit the way she did.  Itna vishwaas hain mujhe uss par." Said Atul.

"Atul vishwaas toh mujhe bhi hain uss par.  Main jaanti hoon ke Riddhima aisa nahin karegi.  Lekin Armaan?  Woh toh bilkul badal chuka hain.  Usse toh kissi ki bhi feelings ki koi parva nahin hain.  Riddhima bholi hain.  Mujhe darr toh iss baat ka hain ki kahin... kahin Armaan Riddhima ko bhi hurt na kar de."

"Yeh sab kya ho raha hain?  Tum log yeh kya keh rahe ho?  Armaan ke saath kya hua tha?  Aur... woh Riddhima ko kyun nuksaan pohanchaayega?" They all looked at Muskaan.  They all had completely forgotten about Muskaan's presense in her room.

"Woh... Muskaan... actually..."

"Bolo Rahul."

"Muskaan main tumhe abhi nahin bata sakta."

"Lekin kyun?  Tum log meri behen ke baare mein baat kar rahe ho, lekin mujhe yeh hi nahin bata rahe ki baat kya hain.  Aisa kyun?" Rahul sighed.  He looked at Atul who slowly shook his head.

"I'm sorry Muskaan.  Lekin main abhi tumhe kuch nahin bata sakta.  Jab sahi waqt aayega, main khud tumhe bata dunga.  I promise." Muskaan wanted to question him again, ,but stopped herself.  She thought it was beter to keep quiet and nodded.

"Theek hain.  Main tumse kuch nahin poochhungi." Rahul smiled.

"Tum jao.  So jaao.  Bohat raat ho gayi hain."

"Ok.  Good night guys!" She went to her room and Rahul turned to Atul.

"Why did you stop me?"

"Agar tumne usse sab bata diya hota toh Riddhima ko bhi sab kuch pata chal jaata." Rahul made an 'O' face.

"Waise Rahul.  Tumhare aur Muskaan ke beech mein kuch chal raha hain kya?" Niki asked in a teasing manner which caught him off-guard.

"No!"

"Toh... tumhe Muski achhi nahin lagti?"

"Haan... I mean na... I mean haan... na..." Niki chuckled at his condition.
"Oh my God Rahul!  Main toh mazak kar rahi thi!  Chill!" Rahul looked daggers at her, wanting to kill her.

"Achha guys.  Ab Rahul-Muskaan ka topic chhodo aur Armaan-Riddhima ke topic par lago.  Unn dono ka kya karna hain?" said Anjali.

"Pata nahin.  Lekin jo bhi karna hain, usse bohat soch, samajh kar karna padega." said Abhi.

"Haan.  Ek baar humse galti ho chuki hain.  Dobara nahin ho sakti.  We have no room for mistakes."

"Armaan ko chaar saal ke baad agar koi wapas laaya hain, toh woh Riddhima hain.  Aur shayad... Riddhima is the one for Armaan." Abhi's words drew everyone's attention to him.

"Abhi?  What are you saying?  Armaan aur Riddhima?  Woh dono toh ek doosre se nafrat karte hain!"

"Haan.  Jaanta hoon.  Lekin zara yeh toh socho.  Riddhima ke saath hote waqt jo khushi hume Bhai ki aankhon mein dikhti hain, woh kabhi aur nahin dikhti.  Dikhti hain kya?" They didn't say anything and just looked down.

"I think Abhi's right."

"But is she the one?"

"She's perfect for him."

                                                                       ****

Armaan and Riddhima were working on the laptop, preparing the final copy of the house.

"Oh no.  Yeh achanak freeze kaise ho gaya?" Armaan complained as the laptop just freezed.

"Lao.  Mujhe dikhao." Riddhima offered.

"Tumhe isse operate karna aata hain?"

"Ha-ha-ha.  Not funny.  Lao.  Mujhe do." Armaan gave her the laptop and she immediately got to work.  She pressed a few buttons and the laptop started again, which left him amazed.

"What did you just do?"

"Technical cheezein hain.  Tumhari samajh mein nahin aayegi." Armaan just rolled his eyes and took the laptop from her.

"Humph!  Bhalaayi ka toh koi zamaana hi nahin raha.  Ek toh help karo, upar se isske attitude saho.  Pata nahin kaunse muharat mein maine haan ki thi." Riddhima muttered under her breath, making sure Armaan won't hear her, but unfortunately, he did.

"Agar gaaliyaan deni hain toh mun par do na.  Don't talk under your breath." Riddhima looked up with shock engraved on her face.  She blinked her eyes for a second.

Iss ko kaise sunaayi diya?  Maine toh dheere se bola tha.

"Dheere se bologi toh bhi koi fayeda nahin hoga.  I'm sitting right beside you.  I can hear."

"Tumhe kaise pata ki main yeh soch rahi..." Riddhima spoke really fast and immediately turned her face to the side, closing her eyes and biting her lower lip whereas Armaan fought a smile that was threatening to come out.  She opened her eyes and gave Armaan a nervous smile.  He just shook his head and went back to work.

While working, Armaan had pulled the laptop on his lap and in order to look at the screen Riddhima had unknowingly moved closer to him.  Armaan felt her breath on his nape and saw her really close to him.  He tried, but couldn't tear his eyes from her face.

She was different.  She wasn't a sl*t like others who would stoop down just to have him for a night and her action a while ago had proved this.  If she was like others, then she would've given in and let him do whatever he wanted, but she instead pushed him away from her.  He could tell she wasn't acting.  Her eyes would convey everything without even saying it.  She was a pure soul and this was bothering him.  He didn't want anyone to come and hurt her, even if it was him, himself.

Riddhima looked at him as he didn't make any move on the laptop.  She was astonished to see them only inches apart.  She lowered her eyes, feeling slightly shy of his gaze on her.  She looked back into his eyes.  There was concern, fear, sorrow... but of what?  What was he concerned about?  What did he fear?  Why was he guilty?  There was another indecipherable emotion hidden among the others.  But what was it?

She slowly broke the eye lock and looked down, bringing both of them back from their thoughts.  Armaan went back to his work and Riddhima shifted away.

There was deafening silence in the room which was broken by the knock on the door.

"Can I come in?" They saw Abhi standing on the door with a slight smile on his face.

"Abhi?  Aao na!" Riddhima said cheerfully.  Abhi smiled widely and entered the room.  He sat in between Armaan and Riddhima. 

"What are you two doing?"

"Project par kaam kar rahe hain.  Parso clients aa rahe hain.  So we're in a hurry."

"Tum yahaan kaam karne aayi ho?  Neend nahin aa rahi?"

"Yes and no." Abhi gave her a confused look to which she chuckled.  "I mean yes, main kaam karne aayi hoon and no, mujhe neend nahin aa rahi."

"Kyun?"

"Kaam karte waqt mujhe neend nahin aati.  Kaam karna keeps me fresh."

"You can't be serious!  Kaam karna tumhe fresh kaise rakh sakta hain?  Main toh kaam karte, karte hi so jaata hoon." Riddhima laughed at his statement.

"Oh God Abhi!  You're so funny!"

"I know.  Issi liye toh ladkiyaan mujhe par marti hain." She flopped his collar in proud.

"Yea right!"

"Pata hain Ridz?  Tumhari aur Bhai ki khoob jamegi.  Bhai ko bhi kaam se bohat pyaar hain.  Itna pyaar hain... ki kabhi, kabhi toh woh sab kuch bhul jaate hain." He said the last part a bit sadly, looking at Armaan, while he just closed his eyes, knowing what Abhi meant.  Riddhima was surprised.  She sensed that something wasn't right between them.

Yeh Armaan aur Abhi ke beech mein zaroor koi problem hain.  Lekin kya?

"Waise Abhi.  Tum yahaan kaise?" She asked, attempting to divert the topic.

"Woh main toh bas aise hi aaya tha.  Tumhe company dene ke liye."

"Oh."

Riddhima and Abhi kept talking to each other, almost forgetting about work.

"Riddhima.  Iss ghar ka total cost kya hoga?"

"Umm... I'm not sure."

"Lemme see." Said Abhi.  Abhi took the laptop from him and did some calculations.

"It'll be around 25 lakhs."

"Are you sure?"

"Damn sure."

"Show me how."

"Look at this.  Hume jo..." Abhi explained this thinking to him while Riddhima just looked at Abhi and Armaan with admiration in her eyes.  For some reason, she saw a glint of happiness in Armaan's eyes, which was really unexpected.  She figured that something was wrong between the brothers.  She has seen Armaan with Atul and Rahul many times, but with Abhi?  Never.  This was like the first time she even saw them conversing.

Hmm... lagta hain Abhi aur Armaan ke beech koi problem hain.   Inn do bhaiyon ko toh milaana hi padega.  Lekin kaise?  Sabse pehle toh mujhe yeh pata lagana padega ki problem kya hain.  Armaan maharaj se kuch bhi poochhna matlab deewaar pe sir peetna.  Abhi... chances hain.  Aur agar yeh dono nahin, toh Atul, Anji, Rahul, aur Niki toh hain hi.  Lekin... main Abhi se poochhoon kaise?  Soch Detective Ridz, soch.

Tapping her chin with her fingers, she thought of an idea with a slight smirk.

"Wow Abhi!  You're so good in all this!  I'm surprised ke tum humare saath kaam nahin karte.  Why don't you join?" She saw Armaan's eyes flickering up to her.  He looked at Abhi expectantly.

"Umm... Ridz... main vahaan kya karunga?  Mujhe toh kuch aata bhi nahin hain." Armaan was about to say something, but didn't and just looked down.

"Iss mein kaunsi badi baat hain?  Main hoon na."

"Thanks Ridz, lekin I don't want to join." Armaan just closed his eyes for a second and stood up.

"I'll be back." He left the room without looking back.  There was silence in the room.

"Kya baat hain Abhi?"

"What?"

"Bano matt.  Mujhe pata hain tum dono ke beech mein koi problem hain.  Aur main jaanna chaahti hoon ki baat kya hain.  Batao." Abhi sighed.

"Ridz... aisi bohat saari baatein hain... aur ab koi farak nahin padta."

"Farak padta hain Abhi.  Tum dono bhai ho.  Tumhe pata hain?  Jab maine tumse kaha ki tum bhi join karo, toh maine dekha hain.  He really wanted you to join.  I've seen it.  Mujhe yeh toh nahin pata ki kya baat hain, lekin main yeh zaroor jaanti hoon Abhi... rishton ko humesha baand kar rakhna chahiye.  Jo bhi hua ho, usse bhul jaao.  Aur waise bhi, agar tum mere saath kaam karoge, toh mujhe bohat maza aayega.  Please." She joined her hands together, pleading him for a yes.  Abhi thought.

Kya karun?  Should I join?  Maybe she's right.  Shayad Bhai... haan.

"I will join." Riddhima's face broke out into a wide smile.

"Sacih?!" He smiled and nodded.

"Great!"

"Lekin Bhai ko matt bataana.  I want to give him a surprise.

"Ok!"

Soon, Armaan came back in the room not knowing anything about the conversation between Abhi and Riddhima.  Abhi soon left and the duo got to work.  While working, his eyes fell on Riddhima.  She had her head on her hand, struggling to stay awake.  He closed his laptop and set it on the table.

"Riddhima." He called out, but she kept sleeping.  "Riddhima!" He yelled and she woke up with a jerk, looking around her frantically.

"Kya hua?"

"Ghar jao." She was puzzled for a second.

"Kaam khatam ho gaya?"

"Nahin."

"Toh phir?"

"Tum ghar jao.  Hum office mein kaam khatam kar lenge."

"Oh, ok." She got up and went to Muskaan's room and both left on the scooty.

                                                                   ****

Riddhima entered the office in a really happy mood.

"Namaste Umar Bhai!"  "Hey Julie!"  "Sup Jessica?"  "Kaisa kaar Ritesh?"  "Kem chho Umesh Kaka?"

She greeted everyone cheerfully, bringing a smile on everyone's face.  She went to her cabin after finishing up her normal routine and waited impatiently for Abhi to come.

"Yaar yeh Abhi kab aayega?  Waise... sochne waali baat toh yeh hain, ki maharaja Armaan Mallik ka kya haal hoga?  Hehe!  Bechaare ki toh sitti-pitti goom ho jaayegi.  Bohat maza aayega!" She giggled to herself.  She saw Armaan entering the room and she stopped laughing.  Gathering up the schedule, she waited for his call and went in when he called.

While she was reading the schedule, Armaan noticed something different about her.  She seemed really happy and excited about something.

"Riddhima?" She looked up.

"Haan?"

"What's up with you today?"

"Matlab?"

"Tum aaj bohat khush lag rahi ho.  Kya baat hain?" His question caught Riddhima off-guard but she was Riddhima.  She never made it obvious.

"Kaun?  Main?  Nahin toh."

"You're lying."

"No, I'm not lying.  Woh kya hain na.  Kal humne Mamma ka check up karvaaya tha aur saare tests normal nikle hain.  Iss liye main bohat khush hoon." She lied so smoothly that Armaan just had to believe her, but there was one thing that he didn't notice, or actually, no one would notice.  Whenever Riddhima lies, her body language never shows it, but she would unconsciously rub her toes together, which would ease her tension.

"Oh.  Ok.  Tum jao."

"Yes Sir." She went to her cabin and called Abhi.

"Yaar Abhi.  Tum kahaan ho?"

"Main office ke baahaar hi khada hoon."

"Ok, I'll be right there." She went to Armaan's cabin and he looked up from his laptops.

"Sir.  Zara mere saath lobby mein aaye na."

"Kyun?"

"Woh aapko abhi pata chalega.  Please sir, aaye na." He nodded and closed his laptop.

They went down to the lobby and she smiled widely.  Abhi came out of the car in dark jeans and blue button up along with a black coat.  He entered the office and everyone stood up.

"Hello everyone.  I know aap sab yeh soch rahe honge, ke main yahaan kya kar raha hoon.  Right?  Well... aajse, main bhi Mallik Empire join kar raha hoon." The employees smiled and talked amonst themselves.  Armaan was shocked.

Abhi is joining Mallik Empire?  How on Earth did this miracle happen?

His mouth was hanging open as he thought about this.  Riddhima stifled her giggle seeing his face.  She turned his face towards her and closed his mouth.  Armaan immediately recovered and looked at Abhi.

"Yeh kaise hua?"

"Um, pata nahin."

"Anyways, main apne cabin mein jaa raha hoon.  Tum jaldi aa jaana.  Hum woh project complete kar lete hain."

"Yes sir." Armaan toko a quick glance at Abhi and then left.  Riddhima could've sworn she saw a smile on his face.

Probably my imagination.

Seeing the crowd fading away, she walked to Abhi with a smile.

"Arre waah Abhi!  Tum toh bade dashing lag rahe ho."

"Thank you my lady.  Ab chalo.  Mujhe mera cabin dikha do na."

"Oh yea.  Chalo."

She took Abhi to his cabin and found Atul, Anjali, Rahul, Muskaan and Niki there with a huge smile on their face.

"Welcome Mr. Abhimanyu Mallik!"

"Thanks guys!"

They all talked for a while before going back to their work.

In about half an hour, Armaan went to Abhi's cabin and saw him working.

"Abhi." He looked up.

"Yes?" He stood up and went to him.

"Tumne achaanak company join karne ka faisla kaise le liya?"

"Kyun?  Ab kya... mera iss company mein kaam karna bhi tumhe pasand nahin?"

"Nahin Abhi!  Aisi koi baat nahin hain!  Main toh bas aise hi-"

"Please Bhai.  Tum jao.  Tumhe bohat kaam hoga na?" Abhi turned his back to him and said in a hurt voice.  Armaan swallowed his pain down and went out of his cabin.  Both were completely unaware of the fact that Riddhima had witnessed their little encounter.  She had been wondering about Abhi and Armaan for quite a while and their conversation had confused her even more.

Yeh kya ho raha hain?  Abhi aur Armaan?  Dono ek doosre ke bhai hain.  Toh phir... dono aise kyun behave kar rahe hain?  Dono ko dekh kar toh aisa lagta hain jaise dono ek doosre ke pyaar ke liye tadapte ho.  Toh phir yeh sab kyun?  Mujhe pata lagana padega.  Agar mujhe inn do bhaiyon ko milaana hain, toh mujhe sab kuch jaanna padega.  Lekin kaise?  Koi mujhe kuch nahin bataayega.  I know it.  I wish I could do something for them.

                                                           *******

Medha

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