“Preeti… Rewa swears she didn’t tell Vikram anything about you visiting school that day because she had broken up with him by then. She had found out about his weird sexual preferences. He …liked to sleep around with both young boys and girls… younger the better…” Preeti gasped as she took in the information. He continued “… I have been trying to fit the missing piece for puzzle for a long time. Even Rewa’s revelation didn’t help. So I met the only person I could rely on. Tanveer… he was my friend from school but I think you know that by now…” he looked at Preeti.
She nodded and stretched on the cot…no more conscious of her nakedness…
He walked towards her. Even in the dark she could see he was smiling. “Sweetheart… you keep doing that and I won’t be able to focus…”
She went on her knees and raised her hands towards him. He came closer and she snaked them around his neck pulling his neck for a quick kiss. He pecked at her lips and lifted up his head. They stared into each other’s eyes. Preeti’s eyes welled up and the emotion stared to flow down her cheeks. He cupped her face wiping her cheeks with his rough thumbs. “Don’t…darling… don’t cry… you are strong…”
She got her hands down wincing in pain as the stretch had probably pulled the skin around the wound. He immediately sat next to her holding her injured hand carefully as though it were fragile. Bending down he kissed her hand starting from the fingertips to her wrist, throughout the forearm…then a light kiss on her bandage. Seeing his ode she couldn’t hold it any longer and broke into huge sobs. He took her by the shoulders and pulled her down with him. He dragged the comforter over them as he carefully pulled her close to avoid hurting her arm. She didn’t know how long she had cried… she felt calm at the end of her outburst. Only Gautam had the power to do that for her.
He stroked her soft back as she rested her head in the crook of his arm their chests facing each other. “Preeti… you have to be really strong now. This is not over still…I won’t rest…unless I find the person responsible for the… incident.”
It was then she suddenly remembered the threatening text messages. She told him about them and he immediately got out of the bed and rushed to her room without even bothering to put on a pair of boxers. He came back with her phone. She wore his t-shirt driving comfort from the musky heat. She unlocked the phone for him and showed him the messages. After a string of lewd cuss words that she had never heard before in her life, he called Bhim Singh. He gave him the details. He then called Tanveer Raisingh who promised to look into the matter to check the source of the messages. He paced the room like a mad animal. She saw the time it was almost 3AM and they were wide awake.
She was still restless. “Gautam… what is this…about the document signing…I will do it in a jiffy for you. I don’t want any fort. But why does Romila Devi want it so much that… you were ready to do… um … get married for that?”
He came to her and sat next to her on the bed. He held her hand interlocking his fingers. She realised he always held her hands whenever he was stressed. She covered their locked hands with her palm and nodded for him to continue.
“Romila Devi has a hold over me…”
She squeezed his hands to prod him. He looked down holing his upper lip between his teeth. She saw his eyes watering… She turned towards him and going on her knees in front of him, pulled his head to her bosom. She held him through the shudders that passed his body. He held her tightly as he released pent up emotions. She kissed his head muttering sweet nothings to pacify him. She was crying inside…seeing him hurt. This giant of a man was hiding so much within. He was like a little clueless baby… She wouldn’t give up on him she thought. She was now determined to fight and win…along with him…step by step. No matter what, she was definitely in for a long haul for both their sakes.
Slowly he sat resting his head on the back rest. She sat next to him and he hugged her close.
“Gautam…are you alright? Looks like my crying skills have rubbed on you as well…”
He chuckled with that sexy sound as he pulled her closer resting his head on hers.
“Please tell me… what happened now… what triggered that?”
“Preeti…it was those messages ….I can’t bear to lose you… lose anymore…” he said his voice hoarse. He kissed her head and continued. “…my life has always cut me a shitty deal… first my birth mother whom I remember…loved me to bits but gave me away to this monstrous family… then Tanveer came along but I had to cut ties with him. I had a loving sister Narmada but I want allowed to meet her often… And then you entered my life like a breath of fresh air… pure, innocent untainted… like a balm to my wounds. Something connected that day between us in the hospital twelve years ago. But you were barely sixteen… I thought it was just a spur of the moment infatuation. But no… I couldn’t stay away. I kept trailing you…”
Preeti nodded. “…I knew you were around Gautam… I felt safe…”
He smiled. “…don’t get me wrong Preeti, I wasn’t stalking you. What I… felt for you was beyond protectiveness. I decided to let go when you moved to Mumbai. I tried my best for four years but I couldn’t… I always prided in my self-control. No one could pierce that shield around my heart. But I saw you in Mumbai and I was a goner… all over again. My supressed feelings came up to the surface with a force that I couldn’t control them….”
Preeti looked up and cupped his cheeks. “…Why didn’t you say something? Why didn’t you come and meet me? I have waited twelve years Gautam… to meet you… Even I had felt that connection in the hospital…”
“…Preeti I was a tormented soul corroded of everything human by what life had offered till twelve years ago. You … you made me want to be human again. But then I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of emotions when we first met in that elevator… I couldn’t help myself. Still can’t Preeti… And if something were to happen to you then I don’t think I can survive that…” his voice cracked.
“Gautam nothing is going to happen to me when you are around…ok? Now tell me what’s Romila Devi got? What is that sword hanging over your head?”
He took a deep breath and said. “She has information about my mother…my birth mother. She will give me the details only if she gets the Gagorn fort. That’s why I had wanted…”
“…to marry one of the Sengar girls…isn’t it?” She completed. He nodded and looked away.
“Don’t worry Gautam… we will go to Kota at the earliest and get done with the signatures…”
He nodded. They decided to catch a few winks before morning.
“Um…Gautam where were you two nights before… I came after you but heard you break down… it broke my heart as well…”
He tightened his hold. “Preeti… I was in the red room downstairs…punishing myself….”
Preeti’s heart stopped. She knew about his fascination for BDSM and had read about punishments as well. So those red marks on his chest… were they…? Her eyes well up again…
“Why Gautam… why the punishment?”
“…Because I hurt you… both, on the day we tied the knot and in Kota…”
She shook her head and held his hands in hers. Facing him she said, “Promise me Gautam… henceforth whenever you get this stupid notion of having hurt me…you will talk to me…please.”
“Um Gautam…do you want me to go back…to my room?”
Pulling her close he spooned her. “Shut up little Vixen…” he growled into her ears sending shudders through her body. “…you are my wife…and … this is your room…OUR room…in OUR house…”
Preeti had never felt happier in her life. She felt complete today…she felt she was completely his.
She heard his light snores soon after they went to bed together. But sleep eluded her. There was something at the back of her head which still refused to go, ever since she was hit… what was it?
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