Prerna x Bajaj | LAST NOTE | PG 29(Page 23)

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Posted: 4 months ago

Oh my gosh.

I think I would need a couple of minutes to regroup and articulate all that I felt while reading the three parts.

Mr Bajaj.. let’s just start here because I have a lot to say. Let me just fangirl for a moment here because I’m a sucker for darker heroes. I just wish the show does justice to him and can incorporate at least 10% of the intensity you’ve brought in him. Every part gave a little more insight into his past and why he is the way he is. The way he deals with power, reacts in any situation is so incredibly intriguing. He just keeps you on the toes. Now his dynamic with Prerna. In every part, he would try to put a charade on but his concern shines through. When he calls for the doctor, he puts people in their place for ill treating her or in the last one where he just wraps her in his coat and ensures that she is comfortable in the car.

You made me gasp, grin and I had embarrassingly let out a squeal.

“He was always going to make the call for the release.” I have it bad for him now!!! 

Posted: 4 months ago

HELLO. First of all, thank you SO SO MUCH for the outpouring of love, and support I've gotten here [shit is this starting to sound like an award speech haha?] Secondly I ABSOLUTELY ADORE ALL THE COMMENTS I GET! I read them all and love them all, and they just make my day and motivate me SO SO MUCH! This has been so long in coming. This part alone is like 7000 words. And I have like another 3000 GOING THAT WILL PROBABLY INCREASE. So this is A TWO-PART CHAPTER/OS. Call it whatever. This is part one. I'll take some more time to post part two. I was planning to post them together but the second is taking some time + it would've been like 10k words or something. Although the impact would've been better, and once I release the second part you'll understand the whole picture better [it's my favorite part tehe]. BUT MY AT FRIENDS WILL LITERALLY MURDER ME. SO THIS ONE'S FOR YOU GUYS.smiley36

IGNORE THE GLITCHES.


PART I


A TALE OF FIRE AND THUNDER


Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.

- Niccolo Machiavelli

 



Betrayal. The violation of a person’s trust, confidence or of a moral standard.

Betrayal. Helping one’s enemies.

Betrayal. Selling your husband’s secrets to his corporate nemesis. 

Betrayal. The black abyss of guilt that chips at your soul.

Betrayal. The moment that changes your life irreversibly.

Prerna sucked in a breath and flattened her palms against the glass pane. She could hear it all: the crunch of leaves and the snap of dry wood beneath boot soles; the squash of silt and mud and the staccato of heels striking against concrete; the lulling chorus of crickets and a loud rumble rooting the air. 

She could see it all: cars buffed with dew; sprawling gardens and arbors covered in cherry-blossoms; flowerbeds dotting stubble of grass and oaks wrapped in spools of fairy lights. Above her, the sky, streaked with dark flashes of periwinkle, covered in billowing tufts of grey that tore apart scuds of white and drenched the air.

Everywhere, Gusts of biting winds that smacked together clusters of speck and dust, sand and gravel, forcing passersby to raise their forearms and shield their eyes.

It was the beginning. 

A storm was brewing in the womb of night. 

Another was taking off in the cradle of her soul. 

Prerna tore herself from the window and studied the room. The usual awe she would’ve felt witnessing such magnificence somehow eluded her. Devdan Aggarwal belonged to one of India’s richest and oldest families. And his hundred-years old manor was a testament to that. 

She’d heard about his grand annual feasts before. Read in tabloids, watched on the news. But nothing did justice to the real deal. The house stood over scalloped arches and baroque sweeps. Banded columns with richly sculpted bottom drums buttressed the roofs. The ceilings and cornices were mantled in gold leaf; mottled marble carpeted the floors and dark russet and ivory tapestries hung over the walls. 

Prerna had roamed through sweeping labyrinthes to reach the ball room. A room so elaborately decorated, nothing short of worship would do. The ceiling was a single piece of artwork, painted in thick vermilion, blue and powder pink, depicting a battle between Arjun and Karna. Wine red curtains accentuated the walls and flower stands made out of chased metal flanked either sides. 

In the center, loomed a gargantuan crystal chandelier, dusting the room in luminous gold. And the floor vibrated with the clicking-clacking of heels and boots as men in formals and women in silk and charmeuse formed cabarets and dueled and laughed, picking off champagne and cocktails from passing trays and filling the room with the sound of their lilts and cackles. 

In a world so big, between people so alien, Prerna was stifling. She tried to reason with herself. She didn’t owe Rishab Bajaj anything. Not her support. Not her loyalty and definitely not her compassion. Yet, the black wings of dread beat inside her stomach, flapping through her veins, and rocketing her heart rate. 

It wasn’t as if she had an option. The board of Basu Publications had given Anurag Basu an ultimatum. He was on the verge of being ousted from the position of chief executive officer, on the brink of losing everything. Anurag had bartered for one more opportunity. One last chance to set the falling dominoes right. And that was this project. It was important he got the project. It was important that he defeated her husband. 

Prerna scrubbed her hand over her face. She felt partly responsible, no, majorly responsible for Anurag’s current state. He’d fallen off the edge; become so self-destructive it was a miracle he was standing on his feet. 

His drunken escapades had become a fixture in dailys. Tabloids dubbed him a star of the past and the Basu share prices were witnessing an analogous downfall. All in all, the leadership vacuum launched a power struggle amongst the corporate stakeholders of the empire. If Anurag didn’t set things right, the company could fall to its death.

And that was why, Prerna assured herself, she had to do what she did. Devdan had thrown the party a day before he announced his partner for the project. Every man who had any weight to wield in the corporate world was in attendance. All of them, except her husband. A tiding of gladness for her. 

He’d eventually find out. He’d understand that she stole his proposal files. Anurag knew her husband’s quote. So he increased his own bid by seventy-five percent. He was taking a risk, taking a cut to his own margin. But with a man like Devdan for partner, Basu Publications was bound to become stable. 

“You look beautiful,” Anurag’s words pulled her out of her fixation. 

She smiled, watching him come to a halt beside her. Of course she did, she’d been primped and dolled up, had a pale silk gown that fit her body like a glove and her heels, those damn heels her designer had told to get for the evening, were a hell-sent. 

“Also nervous,” he said, sliding his hands in his pockets, and she shrugged, casting a sheepish glance around her. 

“I’m just...overwhelmed.” 

“Yeah. Glamour can do that to a person.”

Prerna raised a brow, “of course. You’ve been here before.”

He easily admitted, “dad’s friends with the Aggarwal family. Besides, I’ve grown up with Devdan’s youngest brother, Vansh. He’s older than I am. But, we travel in the same circles.”

“What is he like?”

“Vansh?”

“No. Devdan Aggarwal.”

He shrugged, “honest opinion? I could never really understand. He’s peculiar. I’ll give you that.”

“Peculiar?”

“...he’s eccentric. And I don’t exactly mean it in a positive way. I guess you’ll find out… Mr. Bajaj?”

Prerna was quick to reassure, not wanting to hang onto the topic for another moment, “he’s out of town. I’m attending in his stead.”

His nod was strained, “where is he?”

“Mexico. For a meeting.”

“Prerna--”

“Dont,” she cut him, her words hard, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me. What happens when he finds out? Am I supposed to just leave you with that man?”

“That man,” she took a deep breath, “is my husband.”

Lines of agitation marred his face, “don’t do that. Do not call him that.”

Prerna shut her eyes, trying to ease the crease of emotions swamping her belly, “facts, Anurag. They’re not subject to whims and fantasies.”

“Yes. Let’s go with your argument then. Let’s take everything at face value and--”

“I don’t want to fight,” Prerna cut him, growing exasperated, “I’m here aren’t I?”

“I can’t leave you with him. Not after he finds out--”

“What if he doesn’t?” She lied. 

Anurag scoffed, “don’t play that game with me. I can read you. He is going to find out. And I won’t leave you alone with him when he does.” 

“He’s not going to hurt me,” conviction laced her words. 

He watched her for a long moment before replying, “he’d hurt his own child shall the pros outweigh the cons.”

Prerna bared her teeth, “keep Sneha out of this. You know what? I’m leaving.” 

She turned, staggered, and cried out, “this damned shoe! Why did I have to wear heels?” Anurag sighed and squatted, silently going for her straps and redoing them with quick, nimble fingers. 

He stood up and his voice softened, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. It’s just we’re fighting. Because of him. We’re not together because of him. When it comes to him I can’t think straight. He made my life hell. There were days my skin would crawl and my throat would close because I could see you so vividly. You’d smile but not for me. You’d dance and glide and spar and dress up, and all of it, for a man that wasn’t me. I used to think he built you a prison and you fell in love with your gilded cage. I was losing sanity. Every day. And I tried to hate you. Every day. But every morning when the Sun came up and I asked myself if I’d managed to somehow purge you from my soul, the answer was always the same. No. You’re my life, Prerna. The girl I fell in love with. The woman I want to spend my life with. The mother I see for my kids. And then to have had you and lost you. To watch you and not be with you. I was dying. So, thank you. Thank you for coming back to me. Thank you, for telling me the truth. Thank you...for loving me.”

“Anurag--”

“Sshhh. Listen to me. I love you. I know you don’t want to hear it right now. I know this isn’t the right place for this. But, god, I do. And it kills me, it guts me, knowing what you did and why you did it. And I need you back. I need to break these shackles he’s put on you. I need to free you. Because that's the only way I can live with myself.” 

Prerna stood there, numb and frozen. His pain got to her, it did. But the words rang hollow, hardly penetrating the layers she’d wound so tightly around her. She was quick to disengage from him, realizing they were privy to curious stares and she didn’t want to become the butt of jokes and slander. 

“I don’t need a savior,” she said softly, looking away, “my shackles are mine to break, Anurag. I’m offering to help you. Please don’t read more into it.”

“Prerna--”

“This isn’t the place for this discussion. Please, can we talk about it some other time? I’d like to get this blasted evening over with.” 

He finally gave up, nodding silently. 

Prerna stopped a passing waiter for cocktail and a burst of green exploded into her vision. A quiet trail confirmed her worst fears. Mohini Basu and her clique stood on the other side of the room. All eyes trained at her. Even with a whole room between them, Prerna could feel the heat of their stares. The putrid hatred that burned so fiercely in their gimlet eyes. 

She wondered if she could ever wipe her soul of the words Mohini had carved on it. 

Gold-digger. 

Maid. 

Inferior. 

Cheap. 

A servant’s daughter. 

Worthless. 

Could she ever douse the ember of hate that had kindled that day in her own belly? 

“Onu,” Mohini left behind her clique and started in their direction. 

Prerna was quick to take the hint, “I’ll see you later.”

Anurag grew rigid, “Prerna. Mom--”

“We’ll talk. Later.” 

She turned on her heels and drove to the other end, ignoring Anurag’s protests, and finding a corner for herself. How had everything she’d once desired become what she now wanted the least? When had her dreams changed? When had the prospect of being Anurag Basu’s wife lost its luster? 

“Mrs. Bajaj,” Prerna whisked to the side, finding a middle-aged man seated on the bar stool. He was dressed in a gaudy purple three piece suit that had a precise and crisp fitting. His face cradled angular angles and sharp features. He’d be beautiful, she thought, if he made the right wardrobe choices. 

“I’m sorry,” she faced him, “you are…”

He glanced around, a smirk sitting on his lips, “if I didn’t have a healthy ego, I’d take affront. I hope you like my party. What are you doing sulking in the corner?”

Prerna straightened, shock and anxiety fighting for first place, “Mr. Aggarwal. I’m so sorry.”

He shrugged, “I’m not. I get it now.” 

“Get what?”

He gave her a once-over, “what made the mighty fall. I’ll tell you this. Bajaj? I’ve known that man for a long while. Didn’t peg him for someone who’d voluntarily shackle himself. Now I know. You’d tempt the saints.”

Prerna felt slightly uncomfortable, “I’m sure I’m nothing to write about.”

“On the contrary, you’ll be smeared across page three tomorrow.”

She frowned, “why?”

He studied his nails and nurtured his drink, “your lover’s spat there caught the eye of a bird in the audience. Let me tell you something about rats, darling. Put one in a palace, on the perch of a gold-studded throne. He’ll still lick his tail and rut in the sewers.”

“I don’t understand what you mean.”

“Be careful of what you reveal in public.”

Prerna caught the rear end, and turned a brilliant red, “that wasn’t--we weren’t.”

Devdan just smiled, “yes. The media doesn’t care. Tell me something. Why marry Rishab? You could’ve had your picket fence and litter of kids with that beanpole there.”

Prerna ignored the jibe, “why would I tell something so personal to a stranger?”

“You wouldn’t. I just wanted to read your face.” 

Prerna tried schooling her features, “my face?” 

“Kid, you’ve no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into. Have you? Word of advice. The clown has many tricks. The virtuoso, only one. To beat him at his game, you’ll have to master his trade.”

Prerna wasn’t an idiot but caution suggested she carefully measure her words, “you’re not very fond of my husband.” 

Devdan just stared at her, tipping his glass toward her, “most people aren’t. Neither are you.” 

“You don’t know that.”

“I told you. I read faces. But you’re right. You’re not indifferent either. You’ve got a kink for the enemy.”

Prerna frowned, “what rubbish?”

He vacated the stool and dusted his pants, “you just gave away your relationship Mrs. Bajaj. If that’s how you plan to play this game.”

She interrupted him, “I’m not playing a game.”

“But you are, darling. We all are. That reminds me. I owe you my gratitude.” 

“What for?”

Devdan’s eyes glinted with amusement, “you bartered for a deal in my favor. I’m a richer man today. Thanks to you.”

Prerna blinked, hiding back her relief, “so the contract will go to Basus?”

Devdan simply shrugged, “I hope you enjoy the party Mrs. Bajaj. By the way, where is Mr. Bajaj?”

She stared at him, taken aback. For a man who knew so much, he really wasn’t that bright, “...in Mexico. I thought you knew.”

Devdan raised a brow, “then who did I meet in the foyer?”

Prerna went rock-solid, “he couldn’t be here. I’d know--”

“I told you kid,” he drew silkily, “you’ve no idea.” 

There wasn’t a minute to waste. She tore past the lasso of people, scoured the passageways and corridors and skidded to a halt in the foyer. The foyer was almost as beautiful as the room she’d just left. Paintings and arabesques. Long balusters with golden handrails. She followed the stairs and paused. Her blood running cold in her veins.

On the floor above her, stood the man that elicited the most complex web of emotions in her. 

Hands sprawled over the banister. Body packed in a dark black two-piece. Hair a tuft of silver. And a woman and man on either side, bluetooths strapped to their ears, faces turned toward him, mouths conversing rapidly. 

His face was drawn into tight, lethal lines, and a cigar was tucked between his lips. He slanted his face to the right, whispered something to the woman, and pushed back on his heels, striding past the duo, and heading west.

Prerna went after him. She climbed the stairs with all possible haste and rushed past the duo in the hallway to follow him. What was he doing here? Had he found out? When had he come back? Why didn’t he tell her?

There was no way to put a stop to her rising agitation except confront the beast. Only if she could find him now. The cloisters tunneled into elaborate labyrinthes, each lane a braid of rooms and passageways. She brisked past a courtyard, and came upon a long hallway that tailed toward a dark, under-constructed portion of the house. Prerna hesitated. What if he’d gone the other side? But she caught the butt of his cigar lying on the floor, and pursued the path. 

The walls were stripped of paint and chips of plaster lined the edges. Wood, gravel and door shavings lay on the floor and the doorway was a narrow line, tapering further toward a poorly lit opening. Prerna stepped through the narrow strip of walls and came upon a roofed yard, hedged on all sides and leading to an open room. 

She crossed over the threshold and stood still, taking in the splendor. 

This part of the manor differed from the rest of the house. The room was covered in dark green wallpaper. The smell of dust and Spanish cedar permeated the air. Candelabras and sconces threw iridescent shadows over the walls and the furniture was a combination of old oak, Chippendale and Sheratan. Prerna walked past large-footed chests, armoires and armchairs upholstered with velvet. Past bookcases stocked with liquor and silver plates, into the open terrace where he stood. 

Earthenware and glazed terracotta vases filled her vision. She held onto the ledge and stared at the grey felt that canopied the horizon. A rumble of canons shook the sky, the tempest dousing every crumb of silver light that hung over the streets and bathing them in damp squalls. Prerna instinctively reached for him, seeking solace from his presence. 

“It’s been a long time since I've seen a storm like this,” his words were slow and measured, “the last time I was stuck in the eye of one, I was sixteen. Backpacking in Wyoming with friends. We had our knapsacks slung over our backs, enough beer in our stomachs to addle our brains, and the kind of adrenaline spike that makes teenagers reckless. We trailed through a wild forest, snapping twigs, clearing spiderwebs with our hands and following wormdung and scat and staggering through bracken to march into the belly of the jungle. I remember coming upon an old oak tree and hearing the sky tear. The cry of black jays and the call of a coyote somewhere in the east. The sand smacking into my eyes and the sound of thunder so close to the ground. We were standing there. Just laughing and watching and cracking jokes that missed their marks. And then a sound explodes through the jungle. A battle cry torn out of lungs so strong, you could do nothing but freeze on the spot. My friends shot off. And all I could do was stand there and watch this giant creature shadow his way through the forest, and come at me.”

Prerna blurted, “you didn’t run?”

He turned his head, his dark eyes mocking her, “I was taking a piss. What do you expect?”

Prerna couldn’t help it. She laughed. A full-belly laugh that speared the air and cut through the storm. 

He watched her. Quietly. Avidly.

She smiled, “what did you do then?”

“Finished my leak. Fastened my jeans. Tucked my tail between my legs and broke into a sprint. I didn’t stop until I was on the road, in the truck, pissing myself all over again.”

“You never went back?” 

“No.”

She teased, “afraid of what it would do to you?”

His answering stare was blank. His face so emotionless, a strange kind of fear took hold of her, “no. Afraid of what I would do to it.” 

All humor fled, leaving her cold and anxious. He stared at her for a moment before turning his back and striding inside.

Prerna followed, “I thought you were in Mexico.”

He opened the cabinet and pulled out a black bottle with the words Barbaresco stamped on it, “and now I’m not.”

She fidgeted, “you didn’t tell me.”

“I didn’t realize we were tallying accounts with each other.”

Prerna was quick to retort, “it’s only fair. Since you always know about my whereabouts somehow.” 

“I can afford the extra set of eyes. Can you?”

She stared, “did you just confess to violating my privacy? And you are unabashed about it? How do you do it?”

“How do I sleep at night? Very well, Miss Sharma. You didn’t expect me to trust you so soon, did you?” 

Dread flared, “so you...well what about when you weren’t here?”

Slow, predatory steps brought him to her. He reached behind her and pulled out a silver plated antique glass from the cabinet, “careful. Curiosity might kill the cat.”

He popped the cork and poured the red liquid into the glass. 

“I’m trying to have a serious conversation here,” she stared at the glass warily, “and you’re...you’re busy drinking. Again.”

“Would you like some?”

She blanked, “no. Besides they’re all the same.”

Amusement lit his eyes, “for someone desperate to understand people, you’ve yet to show signs of astuteness.”

Prerna glared, “what do you mean?”

“If you plan to dissect homosapiens, wines are an excellent study.” 

“How?”

He caught her hand and pressed her fingers against the rim of the glass, “good wines are complex. Like people. Bursting with aromas and flavors that take their time to reveal themselves to you. One sip at a time.  Take a whiff.”

She automatically leaned down, the soft call of his voice hypnotizing her. 

“What’s the scent?”

Prerna filled her lungs with the heady cocktail, “it smells...sweet and sharp.”

“Yes. Like what?” 

“Like cherries. And leather...and licorice.”

“They brew them in the little town of Alessandria, in the limestone hills of Monferrato range. Southeastern Piedmont. Take another whiff. And you’ll smell it. Wet bark. Dead leaves. Tar. Spices.”

She did, inhaling sharply and letting the perfume stir through her senses, “how can you enjoy dead leaves and tar?”

“You’ll have to taste to find out.”

She hesitated, “alcohol--” 

“Don’t worry,” his words soothed her, “it’s a drop in the ocean. You’ll only take a sip. Negligible.” 

She did, tipping the glass against her lips. The liquid pooled against her tongue and washed over her flavor buds. She felt the silken scrape of his thumb and forefingers on either side of her face and shut her eyes.

His words slid over her, his fingers pressing against her chin and carrying a trail over her mouth, “cradle it,” his thumb traced the fine lines of her cheek, “feel it here. Don’t swallow just yet. Nurture the taste. Let it carry you. Soak you. Permeate through you. Feel the texture. The sweep of a brushstroke and the way it makes your mouth tingle.”

Her heartbeat sped, her fingers buzzing. The taste exploded on her tongue, filling her with hints of prunes, chocolate, and black figs.”

“Another sip.”

She followed in a daze, bringing the goblet to her mouth. His fingers spread over her throat in butter-fly soft kisses, tracing her veins, caressing her skin, “feel it here. The lulling sting that settles in your throat. And here,” he arched his thumbs to cradle her jaw, while his fingers trailed down her neck, “where the liquid settles, leaving a soft sting. A buzz that hints at more.”

She felt it. Another taste. Another flavor. Hints of black figs, violets and bitter espresso. His hands wreaked a havoc, warming her skin, igniting an inferno in her soul, forcing her insides to pool with desire. His scent, sandalwood and something spicy, something that she’d come to associate solely with him, filled her head. 

“What did Devdan say to you?”  

Prerna opened her eyes, staring into the dark abyss of his gaze. Unease began to brew, “he doesn’t like you much.” 

His words were sharp, “that’s an understatement. What did he say to you?”

She felt cornered, caged, “nothing much. He told me I was a fool and that some bird had caught my spat with Anurag and I better be careful. Casual talk.”

“Was it?”

“What?”

“A spat?”

She ignored his question, “he said I’d be on page three. Something about tabloids.”

“Sagarika Ghoshe. Green eyes. Five foot. Works for India Groove.”

Prerna grew wary, “what can she write about me?”

His cold regard chilled her, “why love? Nothing you haven’t heard about yourself before. She’d tell the world what good arm candy you are. An ambitious social climber who’s got a sugar daddy on one side and a man to rut with in the Tuscan Sun on the other.”

Prerna blistered, “I can’t believe you just said that.”

He raised a cool brow, “why the surprise? You didn't exactly mind when Mohini Basu called you that.” 

“She is Anurag’s mother and--”

“She’s a sexist bitch.”

“You--”

“Oh, sweet little child. I’m not the one you need to convince.” He crossed to the other side of the room ignoring her. Prerna followed. 

“What is your beef with Devdan Aggarwal? And why do business with someone you hate?” 

He didn’t reply and Prerna followed his eyes to the oil painting adorning the wall. The sight broadsided her for a second. The woman painted in bold strokes of gold, peach, blue and red was a goddess. So beautiful in her red, sleeveless saari, Prerna was entranced. Her face was a brilliant oval, her smile painted in cherry red and her eyes--Prerna frowned--her eyes were a dark obsidian. Full and big and elusive.

“Is that his wife?”

He shook his head and turned to look at her, “no. He killed his wife.”

Shock rooted her through her, “what?” 

“Choked her in a rage,” he deadpanned.

Prerna didn’t blink, “you’re joking.” 

“In this very room.”

Something cold and bitter was taking hold of her, “w-why?”

He advanced, “betrayal.”

She paled, “what?”

His face was an inscrutable mask, his words rolling easily, “he found her in bed with another man. Didn’t like it so he took them out.”

“Them?”

“He used a baseball bat to bash his head to a pulp,” he said softly. 

“But. Nobody knows.”

His smile was dark, “nobody ever found out.”

“He didn’t look like the kind of guy who would--”

“Neither do I.”

Prerna stilled, “you…”

“How do you know I didn’t poison your wine?”

And this was it. The moment of blind faith. The gamble she’d taken. The reason she’d done what she’d done. She thrust her chin upward and said with conviction, “because you’d never hurt me. At least not physically.” 

She waited. Patiently. Her pulse pounding. Her knees shaking. She waited for the roll of his eyes; for the clip of his harsh rebuttal, for a flagrant remark. But silence charged the air. He watched her. Quiet. Then walked to the pianoforte and caressed the giant bouquet of pink Dahlias perched on the flower stand beside it.  

“My mother’s favorites,” he said slowly, taking a chug from the whiskey bottle he’d snagged from the cabinet, “I used to hate them. I’d wake up and they’ll be in the bloody washroom. In the car. On the sofas where we’d occasionally sit and catch some T.V. Sometimes she’d take my lunch money and starve me so she could cross the street, buy a wreath of these to hang on the damn door.” 

He smiled. But it didn’t reach his eyes. And then all expressions evaporated, leaving an air of menace in the room. He tilted the bottle, dousing the petals and stems in alcohol, and nestled a freshly shaved cigar between his lips.

Prerna tensed. 

In a blinding move that stunned her, he flicked his lighter and set the bouquet on fire. In a fraction of a second, the orange spread, rooting through leaf and stem, charring and lighting every corner, every petal. Pressing his cheek closer to the rising, crackling flames, he let the silken wisps of heat rear end his cigar. He waited for the ember to spark and spread through his roll, then pulled back, tilted his face skyward, and let out a puff of smoke. 

His eyes stared beyond her, “guess I still hate them.” 

The bottle flew across the room and hit the painting. splinters of glass flying everywhere. And with a flick of his wrist, the lighter followed, setting flames to oil, burning the vivid red of the woman’s smile to ashes. 

A scream ripped out of Prerna’s throat and panic set in, suffocating her. She scrambled for something to douse the flames with but there was no water in sight. She remembered she’d seen an extinguisher on her way here and she ran out of the room, finding the tank on the roof. She put out the fire but the painting was gone. Charred to black and disfigured beyond recognition.

“What is wrong with you?” she cried. 

He prowled toward her, pulling her into his embrace. But nothing about his touch was soft. Nothing in his gaze welcoming.

“Your phone’s ringing.” 

She blinked, trying to beat back the wings of full-blown panic, “it’s not.”

The said object began to vibrate, filling the room with its hum. 

His mouth curled, “now it is.”

Prerna just stared at him.

“Trust me, you want to get that.” 

She did. Trembling fingers reached inside the clutch and she put the phone to her ear, “hello?” 

“Is this Prerna Sharma?”

She hesitated, “yes.”

“The password is 6330vc. No capitals. I repeat. 6330vc. Please acknowledge.”

She frowned, “acknowledged. But--”

The call disconnected. 

“Open your inbox,” Bajaj said.

She was quick to respond. An email sat at the top of the pile. No subject or body except an attachment. She clicked but it required a pass code. 

“Type that in.”

Prerna quietly typed from memory and the attachment opened. She lurched, the blood draining out of her face. 

Inside featured Basu Publications’ confidential data. Passwords. Accounts. Informants. Tips. Financial information. Client information. There were so many folders and excel sheets, her brain was spinning.

“What is...what is this?”

He was calm. Collected. A dark, triumphant glitter in his eyes, “there’s been a minor...no, let me rephrase. There’s been a major breach in their systems. An hour ago, a team of experts penetrated their corporate network. And now their security has been compromised.” 

“You did this,” she said, devastated. 

“You overstate my capabilities. I’m not really the artist type.”

“How can you--”

He pulled her close and she gasped. Their noses brushed and she felt the hot lash of fear, “my poor little damsel. You really thought you had the better of me didn’t you? Finding sensitive data and selling it to the enemy. A little more convenient than it should’ve been, don’t you think?”

Prerna blinked, “you set me up?”

“You set yourself up. What did I tell you about people, Miss Sharma? If you want to control them, find what makes them tick. You are surprisingly easy to read.” 

“Am I?”

Something cold glinted against her skin and she looked down in time to see his fingers fasten a silver chain around her neck. The pad of his fingers traced the chain and he flicked the pendant that lay in the middle. A dove...in a cage. 

“You think I wouldn’t have guessed you’d do whatever it takes to help him sort this mess? You’re loyal. Kind. I’ll give you that. But also inherently naive. Foolish and one-dimensional. You live in a small bubble Miss Sharma. You’ve put people in boxes and you think you deserve a reward for being in the best one. Good. Selfless. White. Except, virtues don’t win you wars. Your business acumen is shit. You lack the knowledge, experience and grit to stand against someone like me. Take a good look at every man and woman who looks at you in that party. What do you think they see? You’re either Anurag Basu’s old flame, the lover who jilted him, the girl who led him to the noose, or Rishab Bajaj’s latest fetish. Prerna Sharma? Nobody knows her. Nobody cares. You’re a bird, love. A golden dove I’ve put in a cage of my choosing. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Or can you?” 

Prerna felt it. Every single word pelted her soul, battered her spirit. Hurt her the way it was supposed to. He’d somehow found a festering wound and twisted the knife so deep, she had to hold back the screams rising inside her chest. 

First things first, “you’ve pegged me. You’re right. What now? What are you going to do to the Basus?”

He stepped back, leaning against the pianoforte, “that depends on you. It’s a ransomware. Soon the systems will go on lockdown. The board will find out. And so will the news channels. Anurag will be ousted. Basu Publications will have a meltdown. And this project will be one of many casualties. But I’m feeling really benevolent today. I’ll hand over the USB that has a decoder. It’ll be over in a minute and no one has to find out anything.” 

“Cut to the chase Mr. Bajaj. What am I giving you in exchange?”

He whispered and it melted through her, “just a kiss.” 

The words slammed into her. He didn’t mean that. He didn’t… “What?” 

“Come here.”

“I don’t think--”

“Or I’ll come to you.” 

She moved, and staggered, the strap buckling her heel coming loose. Prerna let out a wince and bent down. But he beat her to it. Putting his arm around her, he picked her up off the ground and perched her on the piano. Startled, Prerna clutched the ledge, and opened her mouth to fire a string of chosen words at him, but his fingers against her bare leg cut her short. 

He sat down on a pouffe and pulled her leg up, his fingers brushing against the silken creases trailing up her ankles. 

“What are you doing?”

“You’re not wearing your size,” he commented.

“I didn’t know you were such an expert on size Mr. Bajaj,” she said sarcastically.

“Thank the gods because you clearly have a problem picking the right ones. Your bra is too big.”

She turned red, “excuse me?”

“Definitely ruining your gown. You’ll have to take that off too,” he loosened the straps around her red pumps and cushioned the ankle cover with a padded napkin.

Prerna rioted, “like hell I will!” 

He just rose to his height, pulled her down and forced her to turn away from him. His fingers pressed hers atop the piano lid and his mouth slid over her ear. The heat of his chest engulfed her back and his words slid against her ear, setting her skin on fire, “hold still or you’ll walk out here without that dress.”

“If you think you can--” 

His nose pressed against her skin, “sshhh. You talk too much. Hold still. And don’t make me repeat myself. It wouldn’t take much for me to forget what you’ve done.”

Prerna stilled, all fight leaving her. He held all the cards, she reminded herself. Aggravating the bull would serve no purpose. She tried to calm her beating heart but her pulse only skyrocketed. Heat pooling between her legs, forcing her to clamp her knees together. 

His fingers drew over her skin, taking their time, leisuring in the silken feel of her flesh before they roofed over the straps that held her dress together and pushed them down. 

“Hold it,” he said without passion and she did.

An elastic snap filled the room and he pulled the scrap off her, dumping the silk fabric on the sofa without a care. 

She pulled her dress back and faced him, while his hand settled at her back, his fingers tensing against her spine, “appearance,” he looked into her eyes, “is everything. You’ll have to grab them before you can play them. Always look your opponent in the eye, no matter how scary the prospect gets, no matter how intense the confrontation becomes. Don’t let him penetrate your defenses. Hide every emotion. If he hurts you; you decimate him. Put them down and batter their spines to mush. Make them tick Miss Sharma. Like puppets on strings.”

He drew her closer until the aching tips of her breasts pressed against his chest and their breaths coalesced. She tilted her face and closed her eyes, waiting for his mouth to swoop down over hers. Waiting. Dreading...needing. Wanting.Lusting. 

Gentle hands cradled her face, the rough scrape of his thumbs trailing down the juncture where her chin met her neck. 

Her mouth parched. And an avalanche set free in her stomach. Even with eyes shut, she could feel him. He was a lodestone, a magnetic field pulling her toward him. She filled her lungs with his air. Her senses with his scent. Her hands moved inside his coat and fisted his shirt, holding on for dear life while she waited.

And she waited a long time. A beat. Another. His lips brushed against her. A touch so feather-light she almost followed him, feeling the faint tingle spear goosebumps on her skin. 

“You owe me a kiss Miss Sharma,” he pulled back, his eyes opaque, “and I’ll collect it whenever the fancy strikes. Come on. I’m leaving.”

Prerna took a minute to snap out of the spell he’d cast. Her cheeks pinkened and she looked away, “you’re leaving?”

“Parties bore me. You can stay for as long as you want. Here,” he pulled out a flash drive from his pocket, “the decoder. Plug it on a company device that has access to the network and you’re set.”

Prerna frowned, “why? Why help Anurag?” 

He straightened his cuff links and knotted his coat, “I’m helping you.”

“Me?”

He offered her his arm, “consider this a red herring. The next time you betray me, there will be no sides left for you to take. I don’t want to shackle you. Or go around in circles. You are the mother of my child. And, my wife. But if you want a war, i’ll give you one.” 

“And the project?”

His eyes glinted, “it was never on the agenda. I’m interested in destroying Devdan Aggarwal. Not adding to his streams of income.”

“Why make a proposal then?” 

“I guess you’ll find out.” 

She took his arm and they strode back into the foyer. A queue of questions lay inside her brain. All of them aimed at him. She was going crazy, trying to take apart the man. And every time she did, he did something or said something that completely threw her judgement off kilter. What was illusion and what was real? And who was that woman in the painting? Why did she look so...familiar? 

There was a whole world to the man that stood beside her. A tangible, breathing web that surrounded him. A whole mountain of it. And she had no idea. He was an illusion. A puzzle she was itching to solve. 

They turned around, facing each other, and his eyes glimpsed something over her head before locking with hers, “good bye Miss Sharma.”

Then before she could blink, his arm snaked around her, the other caught her nape, angling her face toward him, and his mouth swooped down, his lips swallowing hers. 

Her questions, her resolve, everything melted in an instant. Shock rocked her still. Shock and the cataclysmic explosion of pleasure spreading through her veins. His mouth was soft and patient, taking her apart with controlled nips, kissing her with such skill, her legs buckled beneath her. His arm grew tight, and he tilted her face to go deeper. Her lips parted, his tongue darted inside, colliding, cajoling, seducing hers. The teasing pressure drove her crazy. She wanted to feel it. The burn, the sizzle, the full-fledged experience of having Rishab Bajaj lose control. Her tongue curled around his, and she sucked. A visible tremor ran through him, making her toes curl in delight. He tasted of brandy and coffee and cigarettes. His mouth hot against hers. His teeth nipped her lower lip, and he drove in again, this time with purpose, kissing her with such raw passion, an ache spread between her legs. A firework of tingles exploded in her arms and chest. They drew apart, both of them breathing hard, and Prerna hid her face against his shirt, trying hard to school her reaction. She was...she was shaking. With desire. And the realization made her reel back on her heels, the intensity of her own feelings terrifying her. She was a mess. A trembling, lusting, hurting mess. And it took her a minute to calm herself down. 

She wanted to say something. To somehow diffuse the situation. To assert her position but he wasn’t watching her. His gaze was fixed on someone beyond her. She turned. And, there he was. 

Anurag Basu. 

Rishab walked past her and Anurag without another glance. Anurag didn’t look at her; he chased her husband. Despite her protests. Outside, a loud boom pierced the sky and the windows began to rattle. A sizzling, pelting sound filled the air. The storm was here.


.amigos.

Edited by .amigos. - 4 months ago
Posted: 4 months ago

Come here.”

“I don’t think--”

“Or I’ll come to you.” 

smiley43

What to say about this update. Its written by YOU. Can there be anyone who wont like your work Amigos  😍

The Kiss part, totally unexpectedsmiley43thought he let her go for now, but only to later torture her by his kiss and then arouse her desiresmiley42 

She was... She was a messsmiley43

Ex saw everything na? RB did it purposely? Not that I am surprised or not liking it  smiley37 

Now what next... I am waiting to read what RB have to say to ex smiley17

Between always noticed one thing. She doesnt belong to HIS WORLD not even anywhere close to smiley36 yet now she is there ! Like how you write focussing on this particularly. Correct me if am wrong smiley36

PLS UPDATE PART 2 SOONsmiley15

Edited by shin-chan - 3 months ago
Posted: 4 months ago

Res

Posted: 4 months ago

DYIIINNNNGGGGGGG I AM DYIIIINNNGGGG HERE!!! when they kissed I screeched out so loud gave my family members quite the shock of their livessmiley37smiley37 I KNEW IT I FRIKKING KNEW WHY HE KISSED HER I WAS ANTICIPATING SUCH A KISSsmiley37so much to say but since you made us wait forever a full review will only come after part 2 is published! Also my gutter mind can't help but hope there's some more action in the next part smiley37 

Posted: 4 months ago

Oh between I forgot to mention. I WILL REPLY TO ALL THE COMMENTS I DIDN'T REPLY TO YET. PAKKA PROMISE! smiley36

Posted: 4 months ago

Originally posted by lovefk


DYIIINNNNGGGGGGG I AM DYIIIINNNGGGG HERE!!! when they kissed I screeched out so loud gave my family members quite the shock of their livessmiley37smiley37 I KNEW IT I FRIKKING KNEW WHY HE KISSED HER I WAS ANTICIPATING SUCH A KISSsmiley37so much to say but since you made us wait forever a full review will only come after part 2 is published! Also my gutter mind can't help but hope there's some more action in the next part smiley37 

HAHAHAHA! PART TWO HAS ALL THE ACTION. LITERALLY. smiley37 But part two will come when I'll be happy with it.smiley44 Cos it has some really high points I don't want to mess up.smiley36

Posted: 4 months ago

Originally posted by .amigos.


HAHAHAHA! PART TWO HAS ALL THE ACTION. LITERALLY. smiley37 But part two will come when I'll be happy with it.smiley44 Cos it has some really high points I don't want to mess up.smiley36

Its ok Ive realised I dont mind the wait, the anticipation at this point is equally exciting for what's going to happen next! Also I dont even have proper words for you anymore because stupid flimsy adjectives just won't suffice ! The lexicon I'm equipped with is just way too mediocre!smiley6

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