I'm really into grey characters and Anurag is a little too whitewashed and holier than thou for me. So I thought I would write a story on Prerna and Rishabh. Let's see how it goes, yeah?
I was really lazy with making an index and this wonderful person was kind enough to make the effort! Thank you, Anjali! I'm not sure how to pin a post so I just copy pasted your index. I hope that's okay.
Author's Note: PM LIST: https://www.indiaforums.com/forum/post/151226013?tid=5104298
ALL THE KING'S MEN
It was nearing twilight when Prerna began making her way to the palatial estate of Mr. Rishabh Bajaj. She wanted to catch him at a time he would be at his most relaxed and she figured that evening was as good a time as any. For a man rumored to begin his day at the crack of dawn, surely he would be unwinding at home as the sun set.
She walked quickly along the narrow street, trying to control her thudding heart. A cold prickling feeling cascaded at the back of her neck, as if she was being watched, tracked… hunted. She’d dressed simply, in a plain cerulean saree, wanting to impress without standing out, but she felt exposed even in the crowded street. She was beginning to wonder if keeping this meeting from Anurag had been the best idea. But what other choice had she had? She couldn’t sit by and watch Anurag be condemned to prison. This was the only possible action, and since he would no doubt disapprove of it, she’d seen no point in telling him in advance.
Prerna drew a ragged breath as she rounded the last corner.The white sprawling mansion tops came into sight with tall iron wrought gates guarding its frontal façade. Nearly half a dozen burly men patrolled the gate,daring someone to breach the boundary. She marched up to the barrier, her shoulders back, her chin lifted. She kept Anurag’s face firmly in her thoughts as she looked at the guards.
“I’m here to see Mr. Bajaj.” She announced.
Most of the men completely ignored her, acting as if they’d not heard or seen her standing right in front of their noses. But one man, who sported a huge mustache and a too-tight charcoal black blazer, seemed amused by her request. He looked her up and down in a too-familiar but not unkind manner.
“Do you have an appointment, ma’am?”
“No.” Prerna willed herself not to show embarrassment at the man’s blunt assessment. “But I need to talk to him anyway.”
“I’m afraid that’s not possible, Ma’am.” the guard replied in a tone that brooked no further discussion.
His companion interjected suddenly, listening to a voice emanating from a hidden earpiece. “Ma’am, your name?
“Sir is expecting you.” He gestured for the gate to be opened.
Prerna blinked.“I beg your pardon?”
“This way, Ma’am.”
She was directed through the solid gates and she let herself be guided through the estate to the ornate front doors. She was still reeling from the fact that Mr. Bajaj knew she was coming. Mr. Bajaj knew her? Was expecting her to show up at his doorstep? She couldn’t shake off the feeling of being caught in a giant chess game orchestrated by unknown forces. Prerna stepped inside the house and almost immediately stopped, gaping despite herself.
The hall was wide and arched high overhead and ivory rose from the floor to gild the ceiling as well. Beneath her feet was a mosaic of marble tiles covered in plush carpeting. Above, crystal chandeliers hung from the vaulted ceiling, and the lights were reflected from the crystal droplets over and over again until the whole was a dazzling display of understated class and wealth.
The armed guard subtly steered her down the hallway and up a wide curving carved from the same ivory marble as the floors and led her to the upper hall. They halted in front of two great mahogany double doors and the guard spoke into his earpiece, announcing her arrival. Then looked at her and drawled almost arrogantly. “Don’t try anything, yeah?”
She nodded mutely. The realization of what she was about to do had closed her throat tight.
Those luxurious doors were opened by an attendant but Prerna hardly noticed the doorkeeper.
The room within was unsettlingly magnificent. The marble floor continued inside the large square room, but the white walls were replaced with walls of deep mahogany wood. Shelves on walls were fitted with leather bound books, deep seated cream sofas centered the room and graceful marble statues stared dispassionately on the scene. The room had a lingering smell of warm musk, cigar smoke and unspoken decadence. At the far end of the room stood an heavy mahogany study table with a huge, tall-backed chair that could only be called a throne.
Which would make the man who sat upon it a king.
He lounged, one leg thrown over elegantly over the other. His hair was dark and almost perfectly lined with silver, not a strand out of place. He a wore a grey waistcoat over a pale pink shirt and matching trousers, a forgotten glass of scotch by his left hand as he leafed through papers on his desk. To his right stood a reed thin woman with glasses, speaking in soft undertones, to his left was a hulk of a man, clearly military, who Prerna assumed was the bodyguard. At his elbow was another woman, arranging the discarded papers. And directly in front of the desk, a man hunched over, looking as if he feared for his future. “I’m sorry, sir!” The man clenched his fists, tears running down his face. “Please sir, please find it in your heart to forgive me. I have a wife. I have three kids! I’m so sorry, sir!”
Prerna witnessed the scene with increasing horror. Mr. Bajaj hadn’t so much as raised his head from the papers he was examining. Just a bored, disinterested voice answered “Gehlot, forgive me if I don’t accept your apology. It is worthless. I’m glad to hear you have a family. I’m sure they’ll be of much comfort in the terrible times to come.’ Mr. Bajaj, absorbed in his documents, lazily flicked his fingers and within seconds, the sobbing man was physically escorted from the room.
Prerna felt a sense of foreboding.
“Miss Prerna Sharma to see you, Sir.”
A stillness stole over the room as Mr. Rishabh Bajaj looked up and lounged back fully in his chair, fixing her with an indecipherable look. Prerna felt that gaze in her bones. She finally understood the chill she had been feeling all evening. Like a sacrificial lamb being taken to slaughter. But as terrified as she felt, Prerna couldn’t help but be struck at the sheer perfection of the face before her. All sharp lines made to fit together like a puzzle. High, razor sharp cheekbones flanked a straight, haughty nose. A jawline that could cut through glass. His face felt less human and more like that marbled figurines that peppered the room. His dark eyes were framed with thick lashes and his gaze reminded her of jaguars in the wild. Jaguars were savage beasts, little given to pity or honor. Solitary hunters, they moved like phantoms and specialized in not being seen or heard. If one must face a wild predator, it did no good to show fear. At least that was what Prerna told herself as she eyed Mr.Bajaj.
Mr. Bajaj picked up his discarded liquor and swirled the amber contents between his long, aristocratic fingers. One corner of his wide, sensuous mouth curled in amusement. “Ah. Ms. Sharma. It’s a pleasure to finally meet with you. I have, of course, heard only lovely things about you. But I must confess. I am curious as to why you’ve come to see me .”
His mocking words strengthened Prerna's spine. “You know very well why I’m here, Mr. Bajaj.”
The King lifted one elegantly winged black eyebrow. “Do I, now?”
I hope you liked the intro. let me know in the comments!Edited by Sohali19 - 3 months ago
Ah ah ah why did you end there???
I am mesmerised by the way you described everything from the security to the house to the rooms to the inhabitants and ofc the KING. Picture perfect.
Now it is a pleasure to have such talented writers who treat us with such blessings as this! Looking forward to more in your series this is beyond words. Speechless.
Loved this. This was supposed to be the scene that was shown, not that pathetic excuse of Prerna acting dumber than she anyways was.
It's amazing. Your writing impeccable, your attention to detail insanely meticulous, your Prerna smarter, your Bajaj as sinister as the Bajaj that was introduced - not the current one degenerating to stereotypical TV heroes. Kudos.
Hi, I've taken liberties with a few details in part II such as what exactly Prerna wants from Mr.B etc. I hope you like the update.
The King lifted one elegantly winged black eyebrow.
“Do I, now?” His voice, like honey blended with gravel, curled dangerously around her. Mr. Bajaj took a long swig of his drink, his liquid black eyes closing for the shortest moment in pleasure. Prerna felt the breath she’d held escape her lungs. Dear God, she was so in over her head but it was too late to retreat.
“Yes. Yes, you do. You know who I am. You knew I would come to your door this evening. I am impressed by your acumen, Mr. Bajaj. I really am. But that also means I don’t have to dance around and play your games. I’m here to take back those property papers, Mr. Bajaj. I’m here because your unethical tactics are forcing an upstanding, respected family to vacate their ancestral home, I’m here because your predatory pricing practices are pushing businesses out of the market. I’m here about Anurag Basu, Mr. Bajaj and the ridiculous charges of murder, criminal trespass and theft, you have levelled against him. You and your people are stealing people’s livelihoods and it stops now!”
Behind her, the bodyguard drew in his breath sharply. The lady holding the stack of papers visibly flinched, and the bespectacled woman by Mr. Bajaj’s side looked at her in open horror.
It occurred to Prerna that perhaps she should’ve spoken with better tact. But it was too late now. Mr. Bajaj’s eyes were upon her, examining her in minute detail. She felt like she was being flayed open.He popped a pill into his mouth and flushed it down with his liquor, the muscles of his jaw flexing and relaxing as his eyelids half lowered in enjoyment.
He swallowed and smiled sardonically and suddenly Prerna understood where he’d gotten the epitaph of ‘lethal’. When he smiled, Rishabh Bajaj was as lethal as they come. A slow smile that didn’t touch his cold eyes, spread on his face, revealing dimples in his cheeks. Prerna didn’t think a face chiseled from marble could have dimples. He looked almost innocent. Almost. Except Prerna knew she couldn’t fall into that trap. No matter what his smile said, this man was no innocent.
“Stealing is such a harsh word, no?,” He muttered silkily. Still half smiling. His upper crust accent made the words almost a caress. “I feel like I must warn you, Ms. Sharma. Not many people find it prudent to use such a tone in my presence but I’d so very much like for us to be friends, so I’ll make an exception for you. This time.”
Prerna registered the veiled threat but bit back a biting response. This man’s actions had caused untold miseries for so many people including her fiancée. But she couldn’t afford to lose her cool now.
“Now.” He continued. “I had nothing to do with Mr. Basu being arrested. You can verify it with the police, if my word doesn’t suffice. Sure, the murder did take place on one of my properties and legally speaking, Mr. Basu was trespassing, but I didn’t file a complaint. Generous of me, don’t you agree? Ah, with the little matter regarding the properties, I was handed a lucrative deal, Ms. Sharma. And I am nothing if not a business man. It’s nothing personal. “
“Nothing personal? It’s the Basu family’s home!” Prerna nearly bellowed.
“And now it’s my home.”
“Homes aren’t taken over in a day, Mr. Bajaj. They’re build with love and effort over years. Something you’ll never understand.”
“Maybe.” Mr. Bajaj nonchalantly replied, seemingly unbothered by her assessment. Prerna couldn’t quite believe the apathy that the man in front of her exuded. He got up from behind his desk and waved his entourage away.
“I’m a busy man, Ms. Sharma so if you have something more to say than empty rhetoric then please go ahead. If not, I’m going to have to excuse myself.” Mr. Bajaj said simply, rolling his sleeves as he walked past her towards the doors.
She lifted her chin. “I want your help in getting the charges dropped against Anurag!”
Mr. Bajaj, turned as if entertained by her statement. “His current state suits me just fine, Ms. Sharma. And I’m not inclined to do anything to change status quo if I don’t see added profit.”
Her heart was beating so loudly she feared he must hear it, but she said steadily, “Anurag has done nothing wrong, Mr. Bajaj. You know this as well. And this going beyond the boundaries of customary business deals. You may not have filed the complaint but you can have it shut down. If we could hand over the CCTV footage from your factory, it would show that Anurag has committed no crime. Anurag would never—Please. Just please!”
Mr. Bajaj raised that eyebrow again, and if a marble face were at all capable of showing emotion, Prerna would have sworn that it looked almost delighted.
“And does your fiancée know you’re here, Ms. Sharma?”
“No.” Prerna bit her lip, startled by knowledge that Mr.Bajaj knew she was engaged to Anurag. It wasn’t publicized at all. In fact, they had taken great pains to keep the engagement under wraps.
“Ah.” He reached for his phone, turning as if to walk away from her.
She couldn’t give up. She had to at least try one more time. For Anurag.
Prerna took a deep breath, and even as she did so, she felt her stomach tighten in warning. “Please, Mr. Bajaj. Can you not requisition the CCTV footage? Please. I’m begging you. Do me this favor and I promise you, you will never regret it.”
Mr.Bajaj slowly turned his head to look at her, no longer smiling now. His dark eyes were oddly dispassionate, and without his smile, his lips had a cruel edge. “Be careful with your words, Ms. Sharma. I'm not a man known to take words lightly. Neither my own, nor those of others. I've played the gracious host long enough and now if you insist on persisting, you'll have no one to blame but yourself."
Prerna swallowed. His whispered warning made the hairs rise on the back of her neck. She wanted nothing more than to turn tail and run. But she didn’t. “
Mr. Bajaj stared at her, cold, remote, and expressionless. The room was so silent that each breath Prerna took sounded in her ears. Then Mr. Bajaj slowly smiled. “You must love Anurag Basu very much.
“Yes,” Prerna said with pride. “Yes, I do.”
“And does he love you in return’?”
Prerna’s eyes widened in surprise. “Of course.”
“Of course,” Mr. Bajaj repeated, “Then I'm certain we can work with us each other to reach a mutually satisfactory solution, Ms. Sharma."
She knew then. She knew that whatever Mr. Rishabh Bajaj proposed, it would be calamitous. She knew that she might not escape this room, this man, with her whole self entirely intact.
“That is, of course,” Mr.Bajaj murmured softly, “if you truly love your fiancée.”
Anurag was all that was good in her world. There was nothing she would not do to save him. And it seemed both Prerna and Mr.Bajaj were painfully aware of this fact.
And so Prerna looked the King in the eye, lifted her chin and said. “I do.”
I hope you guys like this update. Please let me know if you do. I'm not a regular writer or anything and any feedback is welcome.
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