Chapter 9 ~ The Contract
“Aur kitni der Taani… Am getting restless here” Sharon said squirming in the back seat of the Audi XUV.
“C'mon yaar Taani ab bata bhi do… kabse blindfold karke rakha hai. Where are we going” Swayam said wriggling in his seat to near Taani who was in the passanger seat in front.
“Bhai… hum bas pohonch gaye hai. 2 mins more.” Taani said smiling. The gang was with them. Taani, Swayam, Sharon, Nilesh and Simmi in a car and Vicky, Bharat, Amar, Kriya and Rey in another. All of them were blindfolded except Taani. They reached Mumbai almost an hour ago but Taani had some surprise awaiting for them.
“Ma’am hum log pahunch gaye hai.” The driver of the other car announced at Taani in her earpiece.
“Perfect. Wait there we are almost there— yeah reached” she said pulling off her ear pod and the driver forwarded to open her door. She stood upright and was followed by everyone else. “Ab aap log apna blindfold nikal skate ho” she said standing behind all of them.
Everyone removed the black silk cloth off their eyes and fluttered multiple times to adjust their vision to day light. Once they were all clear eyes, they saw a huge mansion in front of them. It was a 2 storey building with a huge walkway passage before the actual house. On the either side of the carved footpath were flower beds of different colorful flowers and grasses. In the middle of the garden stood a artificial tree with barks covered with flowery bushes.
The boundary pillars were of creamy white colour with patterns of gold. On the right pillar, their was a name engraved. ‘SWARON’. Sharon marched towards the pillar and traced her fingers on the name.
“Ye sab kya hai Taani.” She asked bewildered and amused by the villa looking house.
“I realised ki maine aap dono ko engagement present nahi diya hai. So this is for both of you. Your engagement present from me.” Taani said bringing Swayam next to Sharon and placing his hand on her.
“Iski kya jarurat thi Taani. You have already given me the best gift ever. You gave me my Sharon, my love back. I couldn’t ask for a better gift.” Swayam said smiling down at Sharon.
“Bhai it’s a gift. You can’t refuse it. And kuch dino tak I will also share it with you. So please.” She said with pleading eyes. But Swayam wasn’t convinced. “Ok. Mana karne se pehle ek baar andar to dekh lo.” She said tugging at Sharon’s hands. Everyone else fell on their steps behind them.
On the periphery on the plot there were numbers of trees towering atop the boundary wall. On the right of the walk way was a fountain, it kept changing it’s rhythm every 5 mins. On the lip of the fountain there were different lights placed- for the evening light purpose. On the left of the walkway there was streamlined water which lead to the back of the house, it was filled with fishes and was covered on the top with transparent and unbreakable glass.
The house was white in color and was very simple yet elegant. It had a porch, which had few armchairs on it. They all stood in the porch, just outside the front door. Taani nudged Swaron to open the door and step inside.
Swayam and Sharon both held the double doors in their hands and pushed it open. If the outside of the house was simple and elegant, the inside was royal and grand. It had an underground level, a ground level and a first level with terrace on top. The foyer lead to the stairs which took them downstairs. It had a huge sitting area with 4 sofas in the centre of the hall and a centre table in between. It had very few room, namely the kitchen in the left with a adjoining dinner area for 16 people, a study which had huge book shelves covered with books and in between stood a very comfortable looking couch set with a coffee table. On the right, there were two guest rooms with double beds and wooden wall cabinets and all the necessary furniture.
Coming up to the ground level there were only 3 rooms– 1 master bedroom with walking closet and and a four poster bed dominating the room with it’s presence, a plush couch opposite of the bed and floor to ceiling windows which opened to a beautiful garden outside– another room with everything similar to it except the bed which was smaller then the previous one, giving more space in the room.
They went near the last bedroom of that floor and Sharon was just about to twist the door knob, but Taani came in front of her and held her hand.
“Wait… This room is to be viewed at last.” Saying so she took them all to the first level by the stairs. This also had 3 rooms. 2 bedroom with a higher view of the back garden and 1 playroom with all the gadgets and a pool table at the centre. The complete house was mesmerizing. To say everyone was shocked would be an understatement.
Taani now lead everyone to the only room left in the ground floor and took a deep breath before opening the door.
Inside the room the two walls on each side of the four poster bed was covered by collages of Swayam and Sharon since their college days. Their first dance together, their first date, their first kiss. Every important moment captured in photos were fixed on the wall. It also had their engagement photos. But the wall on top of their bed was empty in the middle as if it was intentionally left out to be filled.
“Wo aap dono ki shaadi ki photo ke liye choda hua hai” Taani answered the unasked question as if reading their mind. The room in every manner looked very cozy and comfortable it had plush couch set and a walk-in closet. Sharon had tears in her eyes and she jumped in Taani’s embrace taking her by surprise and almost knocking her down. She held her tight and smiled at her joy. Swayam didn’t shed any tears but he was equally emotional.
“Thank you Taani. I can’t express how beautiful this is in words” Swayam said giving her one armed hug and kissing the top of her head.
“So you accept it.” Taani asked hopefully and in response both Swayam and Sharon nodded in agreement. Taani squealed and hugged both of them. “Am so happy for both of you.” She said pulling back. They all marched down the stairs and sat in the sitting space. As if on cue the house keeper came and greeted Taani and left for the kitchen to get some refreshments for all of them.
“Seriously Taani it’s too beautiful” Vicky said turning around slowly taking in the house. “When did you buy it?” he asked taking his place in the sofa.
“Well jab Sharon ne mujhe call kiya tha Paris me I started looking for a place here. But this got confirmed the day I reached here. Which is 4 days ago.” Taani said scrunching her nose.
“You wanna say ki tumne itna sab 4 days me karwaya!” Simmi said widening her eyes at her.
“Well you’ll be shocked at what can be done when you have enough resources and money. It did cost me a good fortune but look at this- it’s worth every penny” Taani said smiling at them.
“But Taani You said ki tum kuch dino tak humare sath ye share karogi… I didn’t get you” Sharon said taking the tray of juices from the housekeeper and keeping it on the table.
“Wo.. we are shifting today itself. Or rather we have already shifted. Maine aap dono ke maximum saaman yahan arrange karwa diya hai. If anything is missing feel free to ask away.” She said waving her hand while taking a glass of juice for herself.
“What! Are you serious… hum aise kaise yahan reh sakte hai” Swayam said shaking his head at her decision.
“Bhai.. it’s your choice mai aap logo ko force nahi karungi. But aaj se mai yahin rahungi. Because yahan se meri office bhi nazdeek hai aur jo new hotel ki construction plot hai wo bhi. Mujhe traveling distance pe rehna parega to monitor everything, as meri puri team abi tak yahan nahin ayi hai. Recruitment bhi chal rahi hai… so lot’s of pressure” she said sipping her juice and licking her lips at it’s taste.
“Tum yahan kitne dino tak rehne ke plan me ho…” Kriya said looking at Taani and realising she didn’t quite put it up presentable she added “I mean ki tum yahan sirf Swayam aur Sharon ki engagement ke liye ayi thi.. right. So now you are saying ki yahan tumhari office ban hai and a new construction plot. I didn’t get you”
“Maine to bola tha pehle ki mai 2 reasons ke liye ayi hu..bhai ki sagai and mera kaam. Jab mujhe Sharon ka call aya tha Paris me, I was already thinking to branch out in India. So I started with Mumbai, Delhi and Goa. Kolkata, Bangalore and Hyderabad me abhi firms ki taiyari chal rahi hai. I am taking over a few companies. And also do you remember bhai maine kaha tha ki aapki sagai mere buisness partner ki beti se hogi..” she looked at Swayam while saying the last sentence and he nodded. “.. yes so Sharon hi wo thi… kyuki mai Rai prakash industry ki share holder ban gayi hu. Am funding them. I won’t bore you with all the buisness details. But am setting a foot hold in India now. So am gonna stay here for awhile.” She said smiling sweetly at her. When she was feeling anything but.
“Wow… I didn’t know ki tumne humare company ke shares kharid liya hai” Sharon said furrowing her brows.
“Aapne business me dhyan kab diya hai… aapko pata hota to mai shocked hoti.” Taani said teasing Sharon earning a smack on her upper arm. “Well jokes apart… mujhe yahan ek aur kaam hai… jisme mujhe aap sab ki help chaiye” She said taking her business look all at once.
“Humari madat..hum tumhari kaise help kar sakte hai” Nil said.
“Well I won’t say help.. but yeah kinda.” She said standing upright with a glacial aura. “Kal se aap logo ko week me 18 hours dance practice karna hoga. Training, jamming included. And you all will have to prepare for LIAD- London Institute of Art and Dance- aap sabko week me koi bhi ek din off milegi according to you. I won’t prefer Sunday cause us din aap sab free rahoge so you can focus better.” She said calmly. Everyone else fell silent on her words, they couldn’t grasp anything she just said. They didn’t knew what she was talking about.
“Taani we cannot dance. We’ve left it long time ago. Please just accept it and let it go” Simmi said pressing her lips.
“Well, it seem you don’t have an option to decide whether you can dance or not, because you HAVE to.” She said coldly sitting on the head and centre on the sitting.
“Tum kisi ko force nahi kar sakti Taani. You can’t just walk in and ask them to dance when they don’t want to.” Kriya said seething.
“Well who said they don’t want to dance. Of course they do. If they say otherwise then they are lying. And isn’t it obvious that am accustomed to take what I want. And I knew there will be a fuss over this so I took preemptive measures.” Saying so she motioned her hand and a man clad in black Armani reached behind her with a manila folder. She took the folder from him and he disappeared where he came from. She placed the file on the table and pushed it to others. “Please have a look. And read properly.”
“These are the papers you a signed last night. This say that you all are bound to a contract with TS Industry for the duration of 6 months. In which you will have to follow some set of rules which are to dance, train, practice and learn. Everyday for 3 hours at least. In your benefits you will be provided a monthly wage of 3 lakh incentive as a group for the first 2 months and increasing a lakh for every preceding month. In order to maintain your health and daily life style, you will be provided a rehearsal hall to practice, gym memberships to workout, allowance for food and drinks and regular health checkup. Also you can continue your current job and businesses as per your liking which TS has no control or right over.” Taani said aloud what others read in their set of papers. Everyone got a set of paper in their name except Kriya.
“But we didn’t sign anything” Vicky said narrowing his eyes towards the papers.
“Sure you did. You just didn’t know what you were exactly signing. You might remember signing a room service delivery. Nil Simmi you both remember signing papers for reception feedback. Amar and Bharat ko food bill sign karawaya tha. Bhai and Rey ne bar ka bill sign kiya tha… and Sharon–”
“Ne ye papers khud banwaye the. So I signed them whole heartedly” Sharon completed her sentence giving her a wide grin. “I didn’t know ki ye itni jaldi possible ho jayega.” She said rising on her feet to give Taani a hug.
“You forget who you are talking to…” Taani said retuning her smile and hug, but, still being seated on the head of the table.
“You know this is criminal right.” Kriya rose to her feet glaring at Taani.
“I do… but you all are at fault. Should’ve read the papers before signing.” Taani said leaning back on her seat.
“We can sue you. We can press charges against you for this fraudulent.” Kriya breathed fire from her mouth. Everyone fell silent on her comment.
“You can try.” Taani said bringing her feet on the table in front of her and crossing her legs, red Louboutin adorned on her feet complimenting her white pant suit, she looked like a boss lady. “You do realise that it will all go in vain. I can suppress your charges before they reach to any possible threat.” She said stroking her chin thoughtfully. “Arash” she shouted behind her shoulder. The same man clad in black suit came marching towards them in careful but determined strides.
Arash Madani. He was a man in his late twenties. His six feet-two inches frame clad in Armani suit, a white shirt beneath his black vest. A shadow of stubble grazed on his chin. His tan skin and well built body was confident enough to make his opponent fear for their life.
“Taani” he nodded towards her and she returned his gesture.
“Please inform Miss. Ghai about what complications she might face if she charges lawsuit against me.” Taani said smiling wickedly looking at Kriya who seemed to blow up anytime because of her shallow breathing and red puffy eyes.
“Sure will do. So Miss. Ghai I really won’t bother you. I will come directly to the point, that is. I am the best at what I do.. and I’m the attorney for TS Industry. So if you try to press a lawsuit on Taani, then you might lose whatever job you are doing right now, all of your bank balance in trying to fight her, if it comes to that, which it won’t.. cause I won’t let it. And eventually you will lose. This will all at least take an year to process, by the time the tenure in their contract will be over and all your losses will be moot.” He said taking the seat next to Taani and sipping the forwarded juice by Sharon.
“You, you–” Kriya fumbled.
“Please text me when you come up with an adjective.” Taani rose to her feet followed by Arash and exited the house.
“Get me all the details from Mehra group of clubs. Also connect me with Danvers he has to increase the security in the premises. I don’t want any stunts to be pulled like the last time. I want it to be perfect. And congrats on your new project.” Taani said going through all her delayed work and making the schedule for the upcoming events– the opening of her new hotel– which will be first in India.
Her assistant Shruti was taking notes in the old fashioned style as she didn’t trust the gadgets enough to rely on them for the important details.
“Ok. That completed all of left out work. We also made the upcoming target and I will shortly discuss it with our team. The security should be upgraded in perimeter soon. Also in your new house.” Shruti said closing her notepad and capping the pen shut. “Now, can we address the elephant in the room.”
“I don’t like the elephant you gave me as ‘new office’ warming present… if you are talking about that.” Taani said pulling up the information sent by her human resource department on the new recruits and started short listing them.
“Ha ha… very funny” Shruti said sarcastically. “You know very well what am talking about.. but if you wanna beat around the bush then fine by me.” She said throwing up her hands in frustration.
“I don’t know what you are talking about Shruti. And honestly I’ve a lot on my mind. So forgive me if I don’t give a damn about it.” She said scrunching her nose at all the preposterous resumes.
“Ok. I give up. Now tell me honestly why did you shift in your new house so urgently. What was the crisis!?” Shruti said leaning towards the desk to near Taani and lowered her voice.
“I told you.. it was near to the office and the construction site.” Taani said not averting her eyes from her laptop screen.
“I said, honestly, Taani. Not your made-up excuses you use with everyone else. You lied to everyone back at home. You said you bought the property 4 days ago and you were looking for it since 10 days. But the truth is you told me to buy ANY property ASAP on the day you were leaving for Goa. That too at 4 bloody AM. So spit it out honey.”
“Yes, I lied. Happy now. I lied because I don’t want them to pry on my personal life. Is that enough for you” Taani said jerking her head at Shruti's direction and looked at her coolly.
“They are your friends and family, they are your personal life- as you put it- why can’t they know the truth.” Shruti sat still unaffected by her boss's shooting glares.
“Are they!?” She asked trying to mask her true emotions but failing. “I can’t sleep in our previous home. It has way too many memories. Even the pills don’t work there. It’s just-” she held her head in her hands and lowered it on the desk.
“Hey- hey it’s ok” Shruti said coming at her friends aid and placed a soothing arm on her shoulder. “You know you can talk to me.”
“I don’t know Shruti. I keep hallucinating there. Again. All my happy memories were in that house I just can’t shake those feelings. The last night I spent there… I ended up in my previous college dancing like a maniac. Tell me that’s normal.” She said raising her head to meet her friend's concerned gaze.
“No, it not normal. Nothing is ever going be normal with you again. You are The Taani Shekhawat. The multi-billionaire, philanthropist and also popularly known for her bed skills among all of Europe and America.” Shruti said joking about her sexual life making Taani laungh and flinch at the same time. “But the important thing is you can have a better good night sleep if you are peaceful. So if you feel peaceful in your new house then am fine with it. But if you are trying to run away from your past, then you are trying in vain, because you can never outrun it. So it’s better to accept and let go.” She said smiling at her assuringly.
“I wish it were that easy. I wish I were as strong as you. How do you sleep at night knowing that your life is never going to be as you wanted it to be, knowing that the only person you ever loved is in love with someone else.” Taani said shaking her head at herself.
“I sleep at night knowing that one day everything will be better, knowing that tomorrow is going to be better than today. Hope is what keeps me living and smiling. You can’t give up on yourself Taani.” She sat back in her chair. “Do you want me to call Flynn for you.”
“No let me have few days of rest before I’ve to listen to the good doctor blabbing about self love and chastity.” Taani said closing her eyes and leaning back at her chair. Shruti nodded and bid adieu to her friend and left the office to finish her work for the day, leaving Taani to muse over what she said.
“Sharon.. how could you do this to us.” Simmi said with hurting eyes.
“Simmi… I know I didn’t do the best thing by going behind your backs… but trust me I had no bad intention.” Sharon said closing their distance and placing an arm on her shoulder.
“Sharon… you don’t understand. It’s not about right or wrong… it’s about taking our right to decide something for us.” Nil said placing a soothing hand on Simmi’s lower back.
“Guys… 3 years ago jab me, Swayam and Rey decided to call off the academy tabhi hum logo ne tumhe koi choice nahi diya tha. We were selfish to think about our personal problems and let it effect professionally and destroy your dance careers with us. We should not have done that. I’m just trying to right my wrongs. It’s a chance am willing to take and give you all your well deserved choice this time.” Sharon said determined.
“By exactly doing what… forcing your decision on them again. If they wanted to take dance as their careers they would have done that years ago. They were not exactly dependent on you three. They are their own person to make a choice.” Kriya said gritting her teeth. “And god knows what Taani is trying to achieve by doing all of this.”
“Taani ne wahi kiya hai jo maine use karne ko bola hai. She just inserted some clause according to the benefits for all of us.” Sharon said glaring at her
“Taani ne in sabse bina inki permission ke papers sign karwaya. It could have been anything… she could have all u guys sign any damn contract bind your lives if that may interest her.” Kriya said venom dripping off her mouth.
Listening her everyone started murmuring something unintelligible and soon their muffled voices became bantering.
“ENOUGH” Rey said finally getting off his seat with a rage in his voice and eyes. “Stop talking…all of you.” He said eyeing everyone. They all shut up looking at him and his stern face.
“And you… don’t you pretend like you know shit about Taani.” He said taking a slow step towards Kriya making her jump backwards. “Because let me tell you… you don’t” he said with a clenched jaw. “Say one more thing against her and I swear to you, it won’t be pretty after that.” He said with a menacing calm in his voice. “You are worried ki Taani ne humare signature ka misuse kiya hoga. Mind explaining how exactly? Because as far as I know she earns more in an hour than all of us in together in a year. Taani will NEVER EVER do anything out of selfishness… because she is the most selfless person I’ve ever met in my lifetime. So you do better and just shut up.” He said taking a final step towards her bringing their face close and making her fear for her life with his intensity.
“And you all… what are you all so pressed about. Itne saalo se you are are mad at me for leaving you all and the academy. Today when you all get a fair chance in doing what you all always wanted to do, you all behave like she is asking you all for your life.” He said looking at them with confusion on his face. “Just answer me one thing… and be honest about it. Do you all want to take dance as your professional careers or just maybe give it a fair try… yes or no” he said with a finality in his voice which no one could argue about. But no one even moved a muscle to say something. “This is not about me, it’s about all of us together. And the offer Taani has kept before us… it’s nothing short of benefit. It’s just 6 months, no loses just gain. It can finally give us a closure if we fail at it, or it can finally be the moment where we achieve everything we all ever dreamt of. Dance me hi hum sab ka Dil hai. And Dance se hi humari Dosti shuru hui thi. I think it’s time to give one final chance to Dil Dosti Dance.” He said with a smile on his face which was reciprocated by each one them and they finally nodded in agreement.
“Dil Dosti Dance.” They all said in unison.
It was late at night when Taani came home from office. Striding in slow pace holding her designer bag in one hand and typing on her phone in the other. She looked from the screen to see a silhouette of someone sitting on the couch in the lowest level. She didn't need to see the person to know who he was.
"Aap itni raat tak yahan kya kar rahe hai!?" Taani asked keeping her bag in the centre table and striding towards the dinner table.
"Wo Shruti ne bola tha hum sabko to stay back tonight. She said ki tumne bola tha." Rey said with a resigned look on his face.
"I know... I didn't mean that. I meant ki abhi tak aap soye kyu nahi ho... It's pretty late." She said glancing on her watch to confirm her doubt as she poured a glass of water for herself.
"I wasn't feeling sleepy and all the rooms have been occupied so I didn't quite find a place to crash." He said with a sheepish look Mai ng Taani choke on her water.
"Don't tell me aapko ye ghar bhi chota lag raha hai. This has 6 bedroom. I thought you all could share." She said feeling embarrassed.
"Oh please... This place is just huge. It's just that i didn't want to share a room with Kriya tonight and everyone else is pissed at me to a share a room with me... Lastly I don't wanna become kabab me haddi between Swayam amd Sharon. God knows what kind of X-rated film I'll see there." He said with a shy of amusement in his voice. Taani didn't ponder much on why he didn't wanna sleep with Kriya and chose better to ignore the topic.
"You could crash in my room. If you don't mind." She said even shocking herself as she couldn't stop herself from uttering those words oit loud. His eyes became wide and his jaws opened in a 'O'. "I mean... I'm gonna be in the study a little while more. So you could sleep there and i don't know mai kab tak free ho paungi to sleep, if that it, but i can stay back in the study only." She said hastily to make herself clear.
"Oh no no... You aren't working anymore. I know you are a mogul now, but that doesn't mean you have to work 24×7. You are coming to your room. Now." He said in a commanding tone which made he skin crawl to her lower belly, creating butterflies and tingly sensation there.
As if on cue his eyes went south to her eye, on her lips. The red matte lipstick on her lip made it look no less than a delicious berry. She bit her lower lip in anticipation. He left out a shaky breath seeing her chewing on her lips.
His eyes didn't stop their exploration. He continued south on her white cami top of her pantsuit. It was deep cut which showed the valley between her breasts. Her chest rising and falling in fast shallow breathing. Her top showed uptill her midriff, her olive skin glowing beneath the layer of cloth. He licked his lips as if he could taste her there.
He continued staring at her and his eyes went perversely upon her thighs, which were pressed together and her arms clenched in a fist on her sides. His eyes were stuck there for a good amount of time, for his pupils to dilate and show a faint dark brown color in his honey orbs.
He couldn't control his growing need, but he marched towards her. Obscenely close to her, he whispered in her ears "we should go to your room Taani. I really need to sleep it off now." His voice was undoing for her and she meekly followed him to the first level and into her bedroom, locking it behind her.
"I.. umm.. i need to change. You should sleep I'll be back in a few." She said hurriedly before vanishing in her huge closet. She wore a decent night gown, a black color satin slip dress. She came back to the room to find him lying with open eyes and facing away from her in the couch in front of the bed.
"You can share the bed with me." She said in a voice shy of whisper. He looked at her carefully with censorious looks. "I mean... It's big enough for the both of us. And i trust you enough, to not try and do any funny business with me." She said lowering her eyes from him and sitting on her side of bed.
"What if i wanted to do some funny business Taani" he said as the mattress behind her dipped with his weight. She got instantly very conscious of her bared legs under her mid-thigh night gown. "Come to sleep, sweetheart" he said in a pained voice, as if he was resistant to do something entirely opposite of what he should.
"Good night, Rey" Taani said slipping inside the covers with Rey beside her. And soon she drifted off to a peaceful sleep.