Preeti jerked up awake as the car came to a halt. She squinted her eyes open as she realised she was resting her head on Gautam’s chest and he had held her close. She looked up as the flood lights from the lawn landed on the car and she saw him looking into her eyes…his browns shining brightly as if they would burn her. Her chest tightened. She moved away from him towards the door of her side. She tried to open it but it had some complex system and she was too drowsy…her senses were scattered all over. He moved close to her and she held her breath. He almost touched her and she could feel his warm breath on her neck. He lingered there for a moment. She almost moaned willing him to kiss her right there in the crook of her neck. But the lock snapped open and he opened the car door. She came back to her senses, mentally berating herself for getting carried away. She had to control herself. She couldn’t give in to the passion….yea yea and wishes were horses….
She stepped out of the car and saw that she was back to the bungalow which she had visited with Rewa didi the day after she had come to Alwar. It was decorated with strings of lights from the outside. She checked her watch it was close to 2AM. Her stomach was growling and she realised she hadn’t eaten anything during the dinner. She was too overwhelmed with emotions at that time. Oh God what would she do now? She couldn’t sleep like that. She could never sleep on hungry stomach. She would cook up something, she thought. At least Gautam shouldn’t have a problem with that. Would Romila Devi be there? She shuddered. She despised the lady.
“Hungry…?” A deep voice spoke and she startled. Gautam had come up to her.
She nodded and said. “Um…can I cook something please?”
Gautam smiled…finally after ages. She longed to see it. It just melted her heart and the traitor tears sprang up in no time. She looked down and blinked. He lifted her chin with his forefinger. “Preeti…” he said softly turning her insides to mush. “…Go upstairs and change. Your bedroom is the one next to mine. Remember from last time? There are clothes in the closet in that room…. I will set up something for you meanwhile…”
Preeti didn’t know what to think about her situation. He had kept another room for her? That means they wouldn’t be sharing a bed? She should have been happy but her heart fell. At the same time she was touched by his gesture of feeding her.
She nodded and walked towards the main entrance of the house.
“Preeti?” he called out behind her and she turned around.
“There are just the two of us. Even the housekeeper isn’t going to come for a couple of days. So feel free to explore around and do what you want.” He said
Preeti stared at him for a moment as if registering every word he said. She gave him a brief nod and walked inside still feeling his eyes on her.
As she passed the closet downstairs she remembered her ‘welcome home’ rendezvous with Gautam that day. She blushed as she felt her arousal slamming in again. How could she… in such a time? She entered the room she was forced into during her last visit. She wanted to get rid of her Lehenga choli and get into something comfortable. She opened the walk-in closet in the room and was surprised to see so many new clothes hung. They were a mix of formals and festive wear. She opened up the neighbouring cupboard and saw it filled with few bath towels, robes and a mix of camisoles and inner wear. Very similar to what she had at home. Had he arranged this for Rewa didi? She thought with a pang. She shook her head. She was too tired to analyse anything. She pulled out a peach camisole and a matching panty. She took out a peach bath robe. Then taking a towel she went to the attached bathroom. She went into the shower cubicle and worked around the settings till the hot water started to fall on her. As the water cascaded down from her head touching her breasts, knees and the feet, she felt the exhaustion drain away as well…the events of the day came back and with it a sob broke out. It was as if the dam within her burst. She placed her palms on the cubicle wall in front of her and hunched sobbing her heart out. She didn’t care if anyone heard her or not. She had subdued too much inside…for twelve years. She couldn’t hold on any more. She cried till there were no tears left. She then shampooed her hair and used the gel for her body. She then shut the tap and hugged the bath towel as she dried herself.
She walked to the vanity area in the corner of the room which had a dressing table with a mirror with beautifully crafted borders. She changed into the camisole and the panty. Both peach in colour and wore the peach bathrobe. She saw herself in the mirror. The full length sleeved robe was extremely comfortable. She would fall asleep if not hungry. Her stomach reminded her that she had to go downstairs. She was now exhausted from all the crying and dragged herself to the dining area near the kitchen. She halted in her steps seeing Gautam only in his towel. He was plating an omelette for her. Besides that was a glass of hot milk. She was an emotional wreck she thought as fresh tears made their way and she had to breathe in deeply to keep them away. He turned around and smiled at her gesturing to sit on the chair. As she did he placed the trey before her. He brought another trey for himself as he joined her and sat facing her.
She was famished with everything that had taken place and wolfed down the omelette. She drank the hot milk and it acted like a medicine to her injured soul. She felt calm and she rose to pick the trey. He held her hand. “Leave it. Go to bed… You need to take rest.” She looked into his eyes which were soft as they looked back. Before she would do anything that she would regret she turned around and went upstairs to her room. She shut the door but didn’t latch it. She kept her mobile phone which had discharged completely, on the side table. She left only the bedside lamp on and as soon as her head hit the pillow she was fast asleep.
‘the man in the mask was crouching towards her… she tried to move backwards but her head hit the bed stand behind. Oh no… there was no escape. He came closer and she saw his eyes… blue eyes…Oh God Oh God…was the monster blue eyed? She was silent and shaking with fear. She couldn’t scream, couldn’t move a bit. He pinned her to the bed…’princess’ he called out to her again and chuckled. The sound made her cringe in disgust. She was crying… she was helpless and hated the feeling. She wanted to hold the reins. Just as her Bapu would say to Rohit… But Rohit was no more. She cried louder for her brother… The monster was holding her but suddenly he was gone and someone was calling her… Preeti… someone was shaking her… why? She wanted to sleep… really? Sleep in that hellhole? What was wrong with her… Preeti…Someone called again… she shook her head…’
“…Preeti wake up dear… Preeti…?”
Preeti woke up disoriented. The light in her room was switched on and Gautam was sitting next to her on the bed and looking at her with worry in his eyes. He was in his boxers. She looked at his torso and saw some red welt like marks there. She sat up straight as he kept the pillows behind her. She had taken off her robe before sleeping. She took up the blanket close to her chin and looked away.
“Preeti… did you have the nightmare again?” He asked softly.
She just nodded. She turned to him and asked. “Was I …um…was I too loud? Did I disturb …you?” She couldn’t stop the tears. He palmed her cheeks and she couldn’t control her emotions any more. Modesty being damned she sprang into his arms and buried her head in his neck as she sobbed. He held her to his chest and tightened his grip around her and gently rubbed her back. She didn’t know how long he held her giving her kisses on her head.
She moved away and covered herself with the blanket again.
“Th…Thanks… It felt good.” She tried to smile.
“Want me to be here?” He asked her.
She was tempted to say yes. But she shook her head. “No…thanks. I am fine now… really.”
He nodded and left the room. She went back to sleep with all the lights on this time. She started at the closed door… What were those red marks on his beautiful body? They weren’t there when she had met him for the late snack downstairs. She tossed and turned for a while her brain working overtime. How would she be able to control herself around him? Why did Narmada tell her that he needed her? Would she ever know what was troubling him? Would she ever know about what exactly had happened that day twelve years ago?
But finally when sleep claimed her she could hear only one song in her mind’s ears… her all-time favourite….
‘ Na hai ye paana, na khona hi hai….. tumse hi din rota hai…surmai sham aati hai…tum se hi…tum se hi….’
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