|Dolls created by Jayashree Karthik|
It was almost 7 pm when Samrat left RS Software with a satisfied look of a cat who had had a bowl full of cream. He called Ram Maheshwari to check that the brothers were at their hotel and promised to meet them in about an hour.
In the meanwhile, a thrilled Ramsingh kept dialing his boss’s cell phone only to find out that it was unreachable. It was pretty galling that he was sitting on such a mine of information and was unable to give it to the man concerned. Ram looked up when Shikha walked into his cabin.
“What’s up? How come you’re still at work?” asked Ram, surprised to see her.
Shikha settled down comfortably on the chair that Samrat had recently vacated. “You tell me. You appear quite happy about something and I see that you’ve been conducting a number of strange meetings while the boss is away. What are you up to?” she accused, her body language aggressive. She was quite miffed that Ram had not allowed her to be a part of anything that day. After all, she was Ranveer’s secretary and needed to know what was going on in the company.
Ramsingh grinned, unfazed. “Will you go out for dinner with me? Any place of your choice,” he tempted.
Shikha glared at him, refusing to take the bait. “You haven’t answered my question Ram. Are you doing something that you shouldn’t be?” she asked again, dying of curiosity. Wouldn’t she be thrilled to find that Ram had feet of clay! He strutted around giving the impression of Mr. Perfect and Ranveer seemed to trust his executive assistant completely.
“What do you want to know?” asked Ram, busy packing his laptop into its case. He was done for the day and was leaving whether Shikha went with him or not.
“Who were all those people who came to meet you today Ram? You’ve been quite secretive and now you look like the cat that’s got the canary. What’s up?”
“I don’t think it’s any of your business Shikha. Shall we leave? That is, if you want to go out to dinner with me. Otherwise, allow me to leave,” said Ram, getting up from his chair.
Shikha gnashed her teeth in frustration. “Sit down Ram,” she ordered. She waited for him to seat himself before asking, “Why did you have to meet the two guys today afternoon? They had an appointment with Ranveer and I was going to meet them in the boss’s place. Couldn’t you keep your big nose out of it?” Anger boiled within her as she glared at Ram. The whole of yesterday and today morning she had been looking forward to get to know the two men and Ram had spoilt her chances.
“You know very well that Ranveer’s not in town this week. Where was the need to give them an appointment?” asked Ram logically.
Shikha lowered her gaze as she could not meet Ram’s straightforward one. While she made her accusations, Shikha was well aware that she was just picking up a fight and Ram was too honest to cheat Ranveer in any way. But she did need a punching bag and Ram was available.
“Ram, you do understand that I need to survive, right? I am trying to find a rich guy to get married to and I felt these two men fitted the bill quite perfectly. See what you have done! You destroyed my chances by meeting them yourself,” she said quite honestly.
“If it’s a rich man that you want to marry, then come on, let’s get married,” said Ram, quite seriously.
Shikha laughed bitterly, sure he was joking. For one thing, she did not believe that Ram was rich and for another she was sure he was pulling her leg. “Just get lost Ram,” she said before getting up from her chair.
Only to find Ram standing in front of her, too close for comfort. Shikha had never noticed how tall Ram was, at least five inches taller than her and she was 5’ 6”. He placed his hands on her shoulders and shook her, much to Shikha’s shock. She had always thought Ram to be a mild person, insipid in fact. She would have never believed him capable of violence. She felt an unexpected buzz of electricity zinging between the two of them as she saw the temper in his eyes. Did she know the man at all?
“You get this straight Shikha. I’m not in the habit of repeating myself. I am the man for you. Not everyone will put up with your tantrums and attitude. While I’m extremely patient, it does not mean that I will let you drive me up the wall,” he said, glaring at her.
Red colour flared up Shikha’s cheeks. Was he threatening her? Then why was she not scared? Shikha felt a sudden urge to be held close to Ram. She had had a couple of affairs and they had all been about sex and not hugging. She had neither friends nor family. Shikha shut her mind and followed her instincts and just pressed her body close to Ram’s.
A shudder went through Ram as his arms went around Shikha’s slim figure and he held her close. That was a gamble he had taken and it seemed to have paid off. He had been a mite worried that she would walk out in a huff. Oh God, it was so blissful holding her in his arms and he had been waiting for this since the day he had set eyes on Ranveer’s secretary.
They were the perfect yin and yang – he was cool and collected while she was brash and loud. While life together might not be very easy, it would never be boring.
Ram put a hand under her chin to raise her face to his before placing his lips on hers. What followed was the most passionate kiss that Shikha had ever experienced. She shuddered as she tangled her tongue with Ram’s, feeling feverish with ardour. How did she ever think he was staid? It was a while before Ram raised his head to place his forehead against Shikha’s to ask, “Your place or mine?”
Was that a trace of disappointment he saw on Shikha’s face? The sensitive Ram could see that she had mentally withdrawn from him even though her body was still close to his. What had he said wrong?
He ran his fingers through her hair as he studied her features minutely. “Shikha?”
For the minute there she had believed that he had meant it when he said that he wanted to marry her. Now it seemed as if he was just one more in a string of men who thought that she was good enough for his bed partner but not for life.
Shikha moved away from him to consider her options. Having an affair with Ram promised to be hot, even sizzling, considering the kiss they had shared. Their chemistry was simply mind-blowing. Why would she want to marry him anyway? He was not rich enough for her. Shikha came to a decision and replied, “Yours.” After all, she was curious to know where he lived while her apartment was too tiny.
They went directly down to the car park to Shikha’s surprise. She did not know that he had his own vehicle. Her jaw dropped when he opened the white Toyota Fortuner that was parked in the slot for the company Vice President. Could that be true? And the shiny SUV seemed to suit Ram’s personality somehow. An amazed Shikha got into the passenger seat as Ram held the door open for her.
He had a mysterious smile on his face as he got into the driver’s seat and drove a silent Shikha home to his penthouse apartment. Shikha finally lost control and let her jaw drop when she saw the swanky interior decoration in Ram’s four-bedroom apartment. The hall itself could easily fit half a dozen of Shikha’s whole flat within it. Then there was the kitchen and dining area. It was simply amazing.
All thoughts flew out of Shikha’s mind when Ram walked from behind her to gather her within his arms. “Do you think I will make a rich enough husband for you, Shikha? This flat is all mine and I don’t have any other family to share it with.” He turned her around, removing his arms from around her.
Shikha watched in wonder as Ram moved a few inches away from her to go on his knees and with his right hand extended towards her, asked, “Will you marry me?”
Finally, the hardheaded Shikha broke down as tears flooded her eyes. She nodded wordlessly as she placed her right hand within Ram’s.
Ram got up to lift Shikha into his arms and walked to the master bedroom while Shikha felt an overwhelming sense of having arrived home after all these years.
RAM AND LAKSHMAN WERE SIMPLY AMAZED at what Samrat had to tell them. The detective had finally managed to trace Veerendra Choudhry. And even better than that, it looked like Veerendra was none other than Ranveer Singh. Talk about coincidences! Lakshman was quite happy for his sister and could just imagine her thrill on finding the truth.
The brothers managed to settle Samrat’s account and thanked him for a job well done. Then they sat back to call Chanda only to find that her cell was unreachable. Both men were clear not to call their parents before talking to Chanda. She deserved to know what was happening before they did.
AT THAT VERY MOMENT, RANVEER had managed to find his ancestral home in Jaswantpura. He had parked his BMW a couple of compounds away. The two streetlights were quite dim and there was not a single soul out on the streets and it was barely 8 pm. He was sure that his parents and the rest of the family must be awake. They usually were up till at least 10 pm. What had stopped Ranveer from going ahead was an attack of cold feet. He was quite worried about their reactions. How much ever he had assured himself on the way here, he was still not feeling very confident. He automatically checked his pocket for the non-existent packet of cigarettes that he used to smoke.
His mobile had not been working since the past hour as there was no network. He could not even call someone to talk to. Ranveer walked up and down the street garnering his confidence. Finally, deciding that hanging around was not going to help either him or Chanda, Ranveer walked within the rickety gate and moved towards the house.