A/N - Hello readers!!
Meant to post this last night but IF was down so bear with me for the delay! I made the mistake of watching yesterday's episode after a hiatus of 3 weeks and GAWD, I'm sure everyone who's watching the show is going cringe at the 5 years old Cheeni playing s*x cupid for Aryan and Imlie. FML!!!
Hopefully the FFs, including this one, can help cleanse everyone's palette off the horrendous story writing the makers are going with.
Imlie and Aryan meet again, face to face!
Enjoy reading, and do leave feedback!!
Dear Lord! He saw me.
Stupid Imlie. Stupid, stupid Imlie!
What were you doing looking in his direction?! There was a look of recognition on his face. He’d recognized me. Oh my God, he’s going to fire me!
Imlie hyperventilated sitting at her desk. Shaking her leg nervously, she bit her nails. What am I going to do now?
God Imlie, you need to calm down. She knew she was assuming the worst.
He didn’t seem like an unreasonable man. He had let her stay the night after realizing she was innocent, had he not? He would not terminate her employment because of an unrelated incident. Or so she hoped.
Taking a deep breath, she pushed out of her chair and headed to the office pantry.
She’d need a strong cup of coffee to get her going today.
Later that evening.
Imlie stretched in her chair and looked at the time. 7 pm.
She had successfully spent the entire day without finding out whether Aryan Singh Rathore wanted to fire her.
Not that it had been hard. She had not seen him step out of the office all day since the conference. What she did see was several orders of coffee being delivered into the office throughout the day.
Turning her monitor off, she swiveled her chair to face his office. The office door remained closed, and the blinds drawn, but she could tell the lights inside were on.
Most of the remaining staff had left, people weary after a long day of gossip and chatter following the announcement of Bhaskar Times acquisition.
Mr. Sharma had also been seen leaving about an hour ago. Tired and dejected, he had been the topic of office gossip all day, speculations rife about where he was going to go next and whether he was forced to step down.
Imlie grabbed her things and made way towards the exit. Best leave before Aryan Singh Rathore comes out of his office and I catch his attention on the nearly empty office floor.
Reaching the elevator, she pushed the button and waited. With a dinging sound, the elevator doors opened, and she stepped inside. The doors had closed halfway when a large hand caught them, causing the sensor to slide them open again.
Imlie looked up and her breath hitched, as Aryan stepped into the elevator.
Eyes trained on her, he stood next to her and turned around, sending a waft of his cologne in Imlie’s direction. She closed her eyes and lowered her head. Dear God, does he always smell this good?
Keeping her head lowered seemed like a good idea for the short elevator ride. He didn’t appear to have recognized her, and she was happy keeping it that way.
“Hello Miss Narayan, fancy meeting you here”, Aryan quipped just as she had begun convincing herself that her identity remained concealed.
Imlie jerked her head up and gave him an awkward smile. Unsure what to say, she heard herself blurt, “Oh, Mr. Rathore? I didn’t recognize you there for a minute!”
Aryan turned his head slowly in her direction, as if for dramatic effect, one of his brows cocking at her comment.
Imlie mentally facepalmed herself. Of all the stupid things you could have uttered Imlie, you picked the stupidest of them all!
“Uh, what I meant was…I mean…I didn’t expect to see you here! You know… I had no idea you were taking over Bhaskar Times. I mean…. of course, there was no reason for you to tell me. I mean…. we didn’t talk about it when we….” Shut up, Imlie. Shut up!
Aryan stuffed his hands in his pockets and turned his entire frame in her direction, a barely-there smile dancing on his lips. He was making her nervous, and for some reason, he was enjoying it. He had wanted to see her all day, but there was too much to do.
Bhaskar Times was in a bigger mess than he had initially imagined. His accounting and financial strategy teams had given him a full report before making the final buy decision.
One thing Aryan loved was challenges and pulling BT out of the hole and putting at the front of the line of players in the media industry would be a mighty satisfying challenge to nail.
The pile of work, however, had not stopped his thoughts from drifting to Imlie all day. She’d intrigued him since their first meeting in Shimla, but her abrupt departure had left him confused and frustrated.
He had wished he got a chance to see her one more time, maybe strike a conversation, maybe exchange numbers. Aryan gave himself a mental shake and scoffed silently. Exchange numbers! What would you do next, send her flowers?
While Aryan was lost in his thoughts, Imlie shifted uncomfortably under his gaze. The light jingle of her anklets filling the enclosed space of the elevator. Aryan was brought back to reality. Those anklets. He’d missed that sound.
“Are you okay, Ms. Narayan?”, Aryan spoke again, amusement clear in eyes.
“I…uh, yes. I just meant to say, welcome to Bhaskar Times, Mr. Ra….Ummm, Sir.”
“Why, thank you. It’s a surprise receiving pleasantries from you after how you disappeared without so much as a notice last time”.
Imlie looked up at him again, a mix of surprise and guilt playing on her face in response to his accusation. Why does he care?
Aryan knew he was being petty, but he could not stop himself from voicing his frustration at the way she’d left.
“I did not want to overstay my welcome”, Imlie stated quietly.
Aryan looked down at her and nodded slowly, feigning understanding.
“Well, when I saw your little cash package sitting on my coffee table, I wondered how I would ever return the favor. If only I knew I’d get a chance so soon”, he spoke as he reached in his pocket for his wallet.
Imlie noticed the movement and frowned.
“Why would you want to return the money? I made a payment for staying at your villa”
“Ms. Narayan, I am not in the business of making money off of my private residence. Especially, when I didn’t intend to rent it out in the first place. Please”, he extended his hand offering the cash back to her.
Imlie took a step back, causing her anklets to jingle again, making Aryan look down at her feet and then back up, raising his eyebrows in question.
“I…I cannot take this. Please. I was accused of being a trespasser, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable with the whole situation unless I paid for the mistake that led me to be there.” Imlie asserted.
Aryan couldn’t help admiring the self-respect evident in her response. Nonetheless, it didn’t make his accepting the payment any more appropriate.
“It wasn’t your mistake, why should you….”
“Mr. Rathore”, Imlie interrupted him. “I insist. I would like you to accept this payment”. Why is it so difficult to convince this man?
The last thing she wanted was to take money from her boss’s boss’s boss, but she didn’t know how much longer she could contest. On top of it, his intoxicating perfume was making it hard for her to carry on with the conversation. An argument was the last thing she wanted to have with him at the moment.
Aryan was about to come back with a retort when the elevator dinged, and the doors slid open.
Imlie rolled her eyes in relief. Utilizing the momentary distraction, she stated hurriedly, “It was good seeing you, Mr. Rathore. Have a good night”. Giving him one last furtive glance, she scurried out of the elevator and out of sight.
Peeved, Aryan stuffed the money back in his wallet and walked to his car.
What is her problem?
“I must be dreaming. Pinch me, Arvind”, Arpita jibed.
Arvind looked down at her wife’s hand extended in his direction, as she peered at her brother from across the large mahogany dining table at Rathore mansion.
He pushed her hand away with a playful slap and shook his head with a smile.
“Come on, Arpi! You make it sound worse than it is”, he remarked.
Arpita turned her attention to her husband and raised her eyebrows dramatically.
“Do you remember when we had the honor of dining with Mr. Aryan Singh Rathore last? Coz I don’t!”
Aryan glared at her sister and looked down at his food, gathering another morsel of rice in his spoon.
“Enough Arpi, leave him be. He’s had a tough week”, Narmada admonished her.
It would take Aryan a few days to recover from the Kufri visit. This was the first time he visited that villa since his father’s death. She knew Arpita was only indulging in some lighthearted banter at her brother’s expense, but he wasn’t in the frame of mind to receive it such.
Arpita gave an apologetic shrug and surveyed Aryan’s face again.
“So, Shimla hmm?”
“Di, please.” Aryan said with a finality that conveyed he was in no mood to discuss the said topic.
“I just want to know how you are feeling”. Her tone was gentler.
“I’m fine, Di”
Arpita knew to leave it alone then. She looked at Arvind and received a knowing glance in response.
“Aryan, where did we end with the Shimla project then?”, Arvind inquired, resolute on bringing the conversation to matters Aryan was more comfortable with.
Aryan gave his brother-in-law an appreciative nod.
“We are good Jiju. We shut the union workers protests once their leader realized we got our hands on the history of his corrupt dealings with the mayor. The project is a go.”
“They were messing with the wrong guy”, Arpi chirped lovingly.
Aryan smiled at her sister’s attempt at damage control. Arpita decided to take the opportunity to say what was on her mind.
“We missed you Aryan. We haven’t hung out like a family for more than a month now. The house feels empty without you. Spend more time with us, won’t you?”
Aryan’s heart squeezed at the pleading tone in her sister’s statement. He knew he was guilty of burying himself in his work all the time.
“I will, Di. I’m sorry for being MIA all this while”
Arpi grinned brightly, her husband and mother sharing her delight.
A few minutes later, the family wrapped up dinner and made their way to the living room, deciding on watching a movie together. Aryan was setting up the movie when his phone rang.
Retrieving his phone, he saw the caller’s name and his face hardened. He needed to take this one away from the family.
Stepping into his study, he pushed the call to answer and held the phone to his ear.
“Mr. Rathore, I have an important update”
“Mahesh Dubey has been found”
Color left Aryan’s face.
“He was spotted at the Mumbai airport this afternoon”
Aryan fingers coiled into a fist, his knuckles whitening.
“I want eyes on him every second of every day.” he spoke into the phone with gritted teeth.
“Copy”, announced the voice on the other side of the line. Aryan hung up and stared into the night through the window of the study, his nostrils flaring and his breath coming in shallow intervals.
I am going to get the b*stard this time.