Keshav woke up with a start, the kink in his neck causing him to fall back… he was blank…the blackout in his head returning with a vengeance…where the hell was, he sleeping…? He looked around all confused and the last nights events were sporadically getting refreshened. He gave a quick look at the adjoining sofa to see Avanti’s sleeping form…she was awkward too. OK…he was now clear about the turn of events that took place last evening. He rubbed his face squinting towards the French windows. The drawing room was dark in spite of the early morning sun rays beaming its way through the curtains with the dust particles dancing in the wake of the brightness. He rubbed his face as his eyes fell on the strip of medicine lying on the centre table next to the almost empty glass of water. His heart skipped a beat as if he was a thief caught in the act. With a quick glance at Avanti, cringing at the muscle pulling painfully in his neck by the sudden movement, he picked up the strip and rushed to his room. How could he be so careless…? Last time’s episode in her father’s study should have been a lesson in itself but this time he had been an idiot…. Once a mistake…twice a fool! Avanti was perceptive like her father and very inquisitive. What if she saw through his facade that he had painstakingly hidden from her? He had been honest with Arpita because he had thought the woman he had once thought was the woman of his dreams, would understand. But he was sure she had escaped in fright. From the looks of it he didn’t think Arpita would have told her sister anything…he had threatened her enough. But he had to be careful now, yesterday was a freak accident…he had forgotten to eat. He took extra care but still it had slipped yesterday totally and he didn’t even focus on the hunger pangs amidst work pressure and wondering about Avanti, the later playing a major part. Avanti always did that to him…
He had been in an urgent meeting when she had texted him about going to her maternal home to pack. He couldn’t reply then but he had been anxious to end their cold feud. An angry Avanti he could take but a silent Avanti he couldn’t bear it… it tore him within. He swore at himself as he took his shower, he had hidden the ultimate truth about himself from her. But Arpita had developed cold feet and taken off…Avanti wouldn’t take things lying down, especially if she got to know why her father was so worried with his last project. She wouldn’t wait for the year…contract or not… she would leave him and worse she would despise him. Oh Mr. Rane…why did you have to go so early? Her father would have had the perfect solution tailormade to Keshav’s troubles… he always did. But now he had to be very careful… he hadn’t even blinked when he had received Arpita’s text that she was leaving but even the thought of Aavnti leaving was like someone clenching his heart in their bare hands mercilessly. He didn’t think he could ever recover from the heartbreak.
He stood leaning against the shower cubicle instantly hardening, thinking about her sleeping form in the drawing room. He knew it was way beyond physical attraction…. It was heavily engulfed by his emotional attachment to her as well. She was the most unselfish caring soul he had come across, who lived for her family. She had taken care of him twice now and not to mention the tiny gestures thrown his way whenever they met before all hell had broken loose. Last night she had been worried sick and he hated to put that look on her pretty face. But that made his erection strain painfully further as he held it with his bare hands and as the hot water cascaded down his bare back, he hunched forwards and blew out his steam vigorously. It took barely two strokes and he came hard muffling his cry digging his mouth in his hand… He had never come with such an intensity ever since his college days. He shook his head as he cleaned himself and chuckled at the thought even later as he half lay on his bed covered with his towel, still panting from his release…
By the time he dressed in his track suit for his workout and emerged outside Avanti had gone off to her room and Mrs. Sinha just made her entrance. Thank God for little mercies…what perfect timing. Though Mrs. Sinha was discrete enough he couldn’t take chances about people finding out about his private life. Especially that step-mother of his, Rohini Jaiswal. As he ran on the treadmill, he thought about the viciously cunning woman whom his father had married. Though she had been quiet for the last few years he didn’t trust her…. after the stunt she had pulled five years ago following which he had got her move to Hisar for good. As he increased the speed on the treadmill, he realised considering the circumstances…he still couldn’t let his animosity for her get the better off him. She had been good to Kamya during her growing up years and that was a huge help to him when he was getting his company on track and struggling with various boomeranging trials in life. Besides she was a good mother to Nirvi and Naman and had blindly trusted his decisions regarding finances. That was huge since it was a struggle to get food on table and pay for their school and other basic living expenses, let alone the luxuries. But Rohini Jaiswal hadn’t been demanding at all and that had helped.
His life hadn’t given him too many instances to trust anyone…. Especially close relatives given the barely present father or the present but not present mother. Even his family friends who at one time had been very close to his father had turned their backs on him. He released a trembling sigh as he reduced the speed on the treadmill now, remembering the Kulsreshtras who were frequent visitors to their home during their hey days and their son Sahil was his classmate in school not to mention his best friend. Sahil had been his rock when his mother had passed but then the family had dumped him high and dry when the going went tough. He still recalled having visited the Kulsreshtra medicare limited, right after his father’s will was read and debtors had lined up outside his home. He had been waiting to get an audience with the senior Mr. Kulsreshtra. They were a leading company specialising in manufacturing specialised stents and neurotransmitters needed for crucial surgeries across the country. He had waited all day long patiently but finally at 10 PM when Mr. Kulsreshtra or Srinivas uncle as he had always known him, emerged from his cabin, young teenaged Keshav had scampered to meet him. But before he could ask for a loan or some kind of a collaboration to bail out Novo Supremo, Mr. Kulsreshtra had given him a sideway angry glance snubbing him off and continued to talk to his PA before zooming off in a waiting car. Sahil too had never bothered to keep in touch and the experience had left a bitter taste in his mouth.
When his life had fallen apart with trouble bursting at the seams, he had desperately needed help. Dnyaneshwar Rane had been the closest to take the position and he was the only person Keshav trusted. Probably that was why he had fallen for Avanti because she was her father’s daughter in every sense of the word, along with her own persona radiating softness and warmth. He had seen that first hand yesterday as her soft pliable body had come close to his hardened one. He sighed as he emerged out of the home gym and walked towards the sofa in the drawing room. He went through the newspapers placed on the centre table, sipping the orange juice that Mrs. Sinha had brought for him.
The study door opened and Avanti emerged with her unruly curled mane adorning her face like a halo. She looked refreshed and angelic in the white salwar kameez, the bindi lighting up her forehead. She smiled as she saw him and brought along with her the radiance of the morning sunshine along with the fragrance of the shampoo she had used. She sat on the adjoining sofa as Mrs. Sinha got her tea and she smiled acknowledging the woman. Once Mrs. Sinha left she looked at him. “…um…Keshav… are you OK…?” She asked him with a soft tentative voice and he was now brazening to face her.
“…I am alright Avanti and thank you for last night…” before she could ask the question about the elephant in the room he continued. “…So, what are you plans for today…?”
If she was irked by the change of topic, she didn’t show. She looked back at her things that had arrived from her home. “…Um… today I will be busy unpacking…that’s a lot of stuff… and by the way, where will you be today…? I will send you lunch. Don’t eat the cafeteria food…” she spoke as she scanned the newspaper and his heart soared. She did care for him… but the very next thought blew air from his sails. Would this care still persist if she got to know his deepest secrets…?
“uh…Avanti there is something I need to tell you…”
“…what is it…?” She bent closer getting a frown between her beautifully curved brows.
Her fragrance was now drowning him and he had to control himself not to make a fool of himself before her. He placed the newspaper on his lap to hide the obvious reaction to her closeness. “…Uh… actually people are going to be talking about… our honeymoon… I… I let it slip in the press meet that we have postponed the event on account of the workload in both the companies… So, stick to the same story everywhere…”
She sighed moving back on her sofa and stared at the now empty tea cup. “…Hmm… yes… makes sense… I am glad you are taking care of all this Keshav… I couldn’t have thought of these details…”
“…one more thing Avanti…” He said softly trying to phrase his words well.
“…How are you on social media… are you active…? Facebook, Instagram…you know…” He had to see how much she shared already or had to filter the rest for a year.
“…Oh no…no… that was always my sister’s prerogative… I was never interested. I do have a Facebook account but its dormant for ages and I am not keen on starting it again…I… I am a pretty private person…”
“…no problem… it’s just that we… uh… we as a couple will be under scrutiny outside… so we have to conduct ourselves… I mean…” He rubbed his face. This wasn’t as simple as he had thought.
She placed a hand on his lap and he moved the newspaper further ahead as his arousal became further her undoing and he was straining against his boxers. “Don’t worry Keshav… we will manage… Excuse me…” He nodded a thanks and forced himself to smile as she stood and walked to the kitchen tying up a messy bun. As she unknowingly swayed her full hips, making her way to the kitchen he had a tough time to tame the beast now threatening to blow up in his boxers. God she was going to give him a bad case of blue balls and it was dreading enough to think of it for today… forget a year! He retreated to his room to get ready for office before he embarrassed himself anymore outside.
After his breakfast of delicious kanda poha which he knew was Avanti’s creation the moment he took in the first bite, Keshav left for work. Something about Avanti didn’t sit right…she didn’t ask him anything…about the medication… that wasn’t possible. Though he was happy as he hated to lie to her, she seemed easily acceptable of his poise and unopposed to his explanations. There was something definitely cooking up in that beautiful head of hers. Her stuff from home was bare minimum and it wouldn’t take her whole day to arrange them. Given her inquisitions so far it seemed strange… nonetheless he had more important things to worry for now. Placing a quick text to Akshat about what was to be done he went about his business.
He had planned to visit Vedshastra for the next couple of months to get the sluggish work back on track. The travel time was long given the distance but he didn’t have a choice. There were loads of irregularities both in R and D as well as financial that he had seen during his groundwork visit in the last month prior to the marriage. He had smelt the rotten malice somewhere in the company folds working against the tide and he had to fix the leak. It was tough given the fact that the sincere workers would take a while to warm up to his decisions and time was something, he craved for…
There were many threats looming around the all-important project right form the time the formula was arrived at. Dnyaneshwar Rane had been a genius not just at getting a formula that was needed but the man also covered his tracks well. He knew the repercussions if the formula fell in the wrong hands and had been extremely careful. Notwithstanding a few break-ins in the company, he had kept the black cover book hidden away and there were no second copies of the formula. Dnyaneshwar Rane hadn’t told a soul about the incidents in the company because they were subtle and nothing of value was taken away. But Keshav had been smart enough and his ability to sniff out anything minutely promiscuous had made Dnyaneshwar Rane reveal the truth to him.
The old man had put his heart and soul into the project and he been worried to the heights of paranoia. Any assurance from Keshav hadn’t helped. Keshav had figured out how Vedshastra, once a super running company with sound financials stood on the threshold of bankruptcy today… had its roots way back when the plan for this project was just conceived. He was sure there was something fishy…. Were his doubts about Dnyaneshwar Rane’s death true…? He had a PI known to Akshat working on it and the very fact that they still were clueless, ate him up inside. He felt responsible to an extent and he wished he could just tell Avanti everything and remove the emotional burden from over his shoulders but… he knew that was wishful thinking. Then there was this threat of corporate espionage looming large over his head, he was yet to put his finger on who was plotting against Vedshastra to lay their hands on the formula…The formula was being redone now with Dnyaneshwar Rane’s notes and other research material but it would rake a while and he had to keep their scientists and staff on the project protected as well. Though Akshat had arranged it, he preferred to keep an eye. The bottom line however remained; they were nowhere close to deriving the formula…
But damage control was his top priority and he had already set the wheels in motion. Today onwards he would be implementing them…he owed that much to Dnyaneshwar Rane…not to let the man’s legacy go down the drain besides his own vested interests… As he approached his cabin in Vedshastra, he smelt it…literally this time. There was no doubt it was something he had experienced before… he was sure. His heightened olfactory awareness was alarmingly projecting a catastrophe. His cabin was the only one on this floor commissioned by him to keep an eye directly on the pilot production and research spread across the floor. the employees were yet to arrive and the floor was filled with inflammable chemicals needed for research. His heart skipped a beat and he wasn’t someone easily scarred. He had signed off the closure report before leaving for home last evening… so there was no scope for leak… that means this was some kind of hostile vendetta towards Vedshastra. He wasted no time and dialled Akshat the apt man to come with a solution. In spite of locking up the corridor leading to his cabin and rushing downstairs quickly enough, the chemical was irritating him and his breathing was getting laboured as he gave the details to Akshat. Were his symptoms related to the unknown gas or was it….
The employees would arrive in half an hour but before that he called security to shut the gates. He had to do something… He shut the entrance to the building itself. As he stood breathing heavily and eyes watering amidst the bewildered employees who had gathered outside the shut gates, he realised the odour had started to reduce as he had moved outside his wing… that meant the source was somewhere in his wing. But there only was a changing room and tea-coffee break room in his wing besides his cabin…so… wait… was that for him…? It just didn’t make sense… but even before Akshat arrived with the cavalry amidst the surprised hoard of the now chaotic employees waiting outside, he knew his suspicions were correct. There was something sinister cooking up and now he had to strike… time for him was running out.
What was that odour…? He knew it from somewhere…
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