Every time his iPhone beeped, he checked it with the same or maybe even higher level of ecstaticness. His inner excitement didn’t tally with the blank splayed all over his face. Though his inner demons had made his mind their dance floor, his body language gave off nothing more than a formal appearance. His scowl grew deeper every time he checked his phone and didn’t find it to be her.
“It’s unlike her not to reply.”
His thoughts rustled wearily making him unable to concentrate on anything but her, yet again. He sighed. It’d been two hours since she’d read the messages and hadn’t replied. His thoughts meandered around thoughtlessly.
“Is she fine? Or is she leisurely ignoring?”
Everyone overthinks. Just the thought and the subject should be grave enough. Without thinking anymore, he dialed her number. It rang till her voicemail answered. Touching the disconnect button, he dramatically slid the phone on his desk, only to grab it the next moment. Stuffing the key of his BMW and his iPhone in the pockets of his jeans, he strode out of his cabin.
“Where are you heading? There’s a meeting in fifteen minutes.”
“I know Uncle. I’ll try to come back in time. If not, please handle for today.”
Saying this, Rihaan scrammed out of the office from the main door.
Sipping her coffee, Ashi was too engrossed in staring at her laptop screen. The fresh and raw knowledge confided upon her, had made her anxious and dizzy at the same time. She’s done with a part of her work and was waiting for an approval from Ramesh. With nothing to do till then, she decided to get a new insight about the matter. Internet gave her lesser than what her Dad had provided her with. She sighed, “I should rather ask Rihaan about it. He’ll be the right person. What if he gets raged? But then he’s always like that. Part raged. Part sarcastic. Never normal.”
Her absent-minded blabbering was halted in the way by a sudden hustle and bustle – footsteps, hushes, whisperings, that ran outside her cabin – Ramesh’s cabin. Before she could replace her coffee mug on the coaster and make her way outside to get an idea of what’s happening, the cabin door flew open and an infuriated Rihaan stormed in, fuming with an apparent anger and carrying a dreadful scowl on his alluring face; Ramesh’s Secretary trotting after him to match his pace chivvying all the while, “You can’t go in Sir. It’s not allowed to enter the cabin without appointment or prior permission.
Ashi froze in her place, gawking at him wide-eyed. She was so gripped that she no longer heard anything said by the Secretary. She was half-muddled and half-gripped by his sudden appearance and the look he carried on his face. Her mind was busy rapidly evaluating and eliminating anything and everything that could have possibly made him this angry and this desperate to land in Ramesh Lodha’s office in bright daylight. Placing his palms on the desk in front of him, Rihaan leaned over the table and posing the same look on his face, eyes flaring with wrath asked, “Where’s your fucking phone?”
There’s an intimidating touch to his calm words – like the one Ashi had experienced the previous night; the only difference was, this time those were for her. The mention of her phone reminded and clarified her muddle completely.
“The unanswered message. Oh yes. The ignored message rather. That got him here?!”
The thought filled her with a dire desire to laugh even though an intimidating and glowering Rihaan was directly hovering right over her head. Unable to hold on the amusement to her, a chuckle escaped her lips.
“What’s so fucking funny?” Rihaan blasted at the top of his voice.
His unexpected display of anger triggered Ashi’s reflexes and she cowered in her place as an apparent human reaction. Water made its way to her eyes. She stared at the Secretary and back at Rihaan with water lined in her eyes, threatening to break the barriers. Rihaan immediately glanced at the Secretary and she left the cabin fumbling and murmuring the next second.
“Now, where’s your phone?” Rihaan asked, maintaining his posture but his words were less sharp-tongued than before.
Without uttering a word, Ashi straight away looked at her handbag lying peacefully on the chair, next to her.
Disposing his stance, Rihaan’s hand found his hair, his fingers running through it, in deep exasperation.
Having registered her safety, a sigh of relief passed his consciousness.
“She’s safe”, he heaved mentally, although he didn’t allow a bit of it to affect his outer self.
Recovering his senses in totality and under his control, Rihaan took a swiveling chair next to the one where Ashi’s bag sat peacefully. Ashi on the other hand refused to dispose her stance. Sitting upright and erect, she kept staring at her laptop screen, her hands moulded into balls of fists in her lap. Her posture revealed her adamant and defensive self. Her eyes were on the verge of shedding those unshed tears and looked like they’re raring for her to blink, so that they could commence with their task of flowing endlessly. Although Rihaan had a fair idea that he’s launching himself to embattle on an endangered territory, he decided to trade on this endangered territory, exercising his own free will.
Ashi’s face had turned into a colour of a berry-blush, her nose and cheekbones highlighting it with a deeper shade of red. It looked like all the blood in her body had gushed and held up in her face. To Rihaan’s surprise, her nose looked sharper than usual.
“Ashi, what happened?” Rihaan asked like he’s talking to a cornered animal that can anytime pounce on him.
Ashi closed her eyes and swallowed hard, with what looked like a great determination; she started cramming her handbag with all her things let loose on the table, without even glancing in his direction, once.
“Ashi? Anvesha? Will you please answer?” Rihaan asked deliberately.
He already knew what was wrong but acceptance would take him to a sorry and his ego didn’t allow him to go there. Ashi turned off her machine, punched a few keys in her phone and hanging the bag on her shoulder in one swift, started walking out of the cabin.
Rihaan’s reflexive reactions made him to trot, chase and block her way out. She stumbled a little and stood statue-still with her arms neatly crossed across her chest. Staring at Rihaan with teary eyes and a “How-could-you-do-that look” she waited in silence.
“Where are you going?” Rihaan asked only because he wanted her talking.
“None of your concern”, she answered plainly. “Get out of my way. I’ve to leave.”
Ashi gestured him and took a couple of steps to unlock the door. Rihaan held her wrist and she pulled away immediately in disgust.
“I know you’re pissed. But you know I protect my assets as I already told you. I don’t trust your current boss. He’s a certified ass with a sleazy past record. And I think you know that already – “
Ashi took a sharp intake of air and said without allowing him to complete. “Listen, to hell with your assets and to hell with your project. I’m not interested anymore. I’ll compensate for this loss of yours and get you a better replacement.” Ashi’s voice cracked in the beginning but gained the desire impetus with the momentum.
It’s Rihaan’s time to gawk at her with what looked like bewilderment. No one had ever walked over him like this. Not a girl, definitely. They’re the one who patched up even when it’s entirely his fault.
“Stop staring at me and allow me to leave”, Ashi said maintaining her stance.
“Okay fine, I know I shouldn’t have done that but why are you taking these extreme steps because of this”, Rihaan said in a pacifying tone.
“Answer a question for me and I’ll answer everything you ask me”, came the prompt reply.
“Do you run after your secretary and other living assets of your office in the same manner? And please exclude diplomacy if possible.”
Rihaan was caught in his own net. Acceptance didn’t exist and denial would expose him to a spree of questions. Diplomacy was out of question. It’s as if Ashi had read his mind.
“So why me? Why this special treatment to this fake girlfriend of yours, who’s just another employee – an asset for you?”
Ashi took a pregnant pause before continuing, “Oh wait, maybe because I hurt your ego? By not replying to your messages? Is it, Rihaan? But do you text all your employees? All your so called ‘valuable assets’? Or am I a tad more valuable to you than others? Did you question this to yourself before heading her uninvited? I’m sure you didn’t. Please do that. We’ll talk after you’ve an answer to this.”
“Did you eat anything?”
Rihaan’s question directly struck her eyebrows and formed a furrow between them.
“Let’s eat something first and I’ll reply to all your questions. Sounds good, doesn’t it?” Having said that he held her hand and headed out of the cabin. The Secretary gave them a weary look before Rihaan smiled at her with his flashing patented smile. Rihaan’s grin made her to flip her expression from weary to adorance, to flush, to blush. She looked like she’d melted under his gaze. “Bitch!” Ashi mumbled, and she reversed her expressions back to weariness when she saw Ashi.
“You said something, Blabbering Queen”, Rihaan glanced as he asked.
“None of your concern and leave my hand. Why are we doing these PDAs?!” Ashi said trying to struggle out of his hold.
“Keep quiet, be steady and smile while walking with me or I’ll leave your hand and hold your waist. Decide”, Rihaan said, flashing his whites at everyone who looked in their direction.
Ashi rolled her eyes hard enough for Rihaan to notice and he grinned as they kept walking abreast.
“Good girl”, Rihaan said as they finally made their way out of the Lodha’s office.
“I can’t force him to get married! I’m trying my best to find him a match who will obey and follow everything I say. But he’s stubborn. It doesn’t look like he’ll marry anyone. What do you mean get him to marry? I’m not a bloody magician! He’s a brat and after Riya’s death he’s lost whatever morals and principles he’d. Ashi? Well, she doesn’t look like someone who will follow our feedings. She’s smarter than what I’d suspected. She’s got it bad for Rihaan though. I know we can’t let her anywhere around him but she will ruin everything we’d planned for years. But I know Rihaan. He won’t fall for someone like her. What do you mean don’t be over confident. What? Not possible. I’ll find out. He’s with her?! Impossible! Okay, I’ll check.”
The line went dead.