Chapter 1 – He looked at her through the glass panes of his cabin. She smiled unabashedly as a colleague teased her blatantly. She had that thing about her, to make everyone laugh. She drew people towards her without trying at all. He was drawn towards her, like a star hurtling towards the ground.
She pulled him towards her without knowing it. Yet, he did not have the liberty to stand next to her, talk to her, tease her like the others. He could not touch her, hold her close or even kiss her.
He smiled at the irony of his being. Here he was the most powerful man in this empire. Yet he had to stay away from the object of his desire. He had to contain his feelings lest they gave him away. The others could have lots of her freely but not him, not even a drop. He couldn't let his heart rule over his head though she had completely captured his heart.
He was powerful but completely vulnerable in front of her. He had to hide his feelings every second lest someone noticed. After all he was the Ceo of the biggest conglomerate in the country. He couldn't wear his heart on his sleeve. So what if it was being torn every second? So what if he could call any girl he wanted? Not this one though. She worked for him.
All he wanted this second was to walk across the room and tuck in the wisp of hair escaping from behind her ear. Then hold her close to him lest she escape from his arms. He wanted to then kiss her, kiss her till she was out of breath. Till she begged of him to let her go.
The phone broke his thoughts. He picked it up with a sigh. It was his wife, informing him of the impending dinner with a few business men. No pleasantries, no how are you, no have you eaten lunch, just stating facts. And then the line went dead.
He sighed, not only was he the CEO, he was bloody married at that. His gaze inadvertently went towards her again. She was now furiously typing away on her laptop. She bit her lip once in a while, thoughtful as if she was struggling to find the right words. And then she looked up, and looked straight at him. And his eyes transfixed on her, the familiar stirrings pulling at his heart. He struggled to look away as she smiled at him.
He smiled back, careful not to let his eyes give away the state of his heart, the effect she had on him.
The secretary walked in, breaking his reverie, reminding him of the meeting in a few minutes. He straightened up, trying to focus on his work. She would be a part of the meeting. She would be close to him. For now that would do. Just breathing in the air she breathed, just being next to her, listen to her voice, see her from close quarters.
He got up, walked towards the conference room, he wanted a few moments to himself before she and the others walked in. He opened the door and walked inside, not noticing someone already sitting there. And then he saw her. She looked up as he closed the door behind him. Now they were just the two of them and a few minutes between them before the others walked in. She smiled at him and he felt his resolve of focus melt away. Damn!
Ruhi was driven down to the hospital straight from the airport in an ambulance.
The dean Saurabh made sure Ruhi was well taken care of and her shifting in process was smooth.
Randeep could finally relax knowing he was in home territory now. He grabbed a coffee as he settled in a chair in Saurabh’s office.
‘Relax Randeep. She will be fine. We have the best doctors.’, Saurabh assured him.
Randeep replied, ‘She is the best I have too Saurabh.’
Randeep had his coffee while they did some idle talk about work and checking on each others families.
Randeep then went thoughtful and Saurabh noticed it.
‘Get off with it Randeep.’ Saurabh prodded him.
‘Saurabh, I need some security for Ruhi. Is that possible?’ Randeep said.
‘Security? I mean is she a VIP or something. Why security?’ Saurabh wondered.
Randeep told Saurabh about Ruhi’s ex husband and the threats to her by him.
‘I just want to be sure, you know. You can charge me extra for it, whatever it may cost.’. Randeep elaborated.
‘Oh Come on Randeep. You know its not about that. I will get it done. Waise I don’t know if you are aware, but this hospital is 100% secure with cctv surveillance all over. So you really don’t need to worry. But if you can get a picture of this guy, I could alert my team to watch out for his presence’, Saurabh suggested.
‘Oh yes. That would be great. Thanks Saurabh. I owe you one for this.’ Said Randeep getting up now and shaking Saurabh’s hand. They went back to Harvard where they were roommates and both had great respect for each other.
‘Gotta go. Havent been to office since ages.Will check on Ruhi once and rush.’ He hugged Saurabh and was on his way.
He entered Ruhi’s room. She was fast asleep. He went and kissed her on her forehead. She stirred and he regretted it then.
‘Sorry Ru. Didn’t mean to wake you up darling.’, he whispered.
‘No please wake me up every time you are here. Don’t ever go without letting me know, ok?’, she said softly holding his hand.
He sat down opposite her and said, ‘Listen Ru.. I am off to office for a couple of hours. Some very urgent pending things. But I will be back as soon as I finish.’
‘No.. Don’t.. Be there as long as you want to. And then listen, don’t come here. Go to Nimmi. Spend some time with her, please.’ Ruhi offered.
Randeep shook her head and started smiling to himself.
Ruhi wondered if she missed something.
Randeep saw her questioning look and said laughing, ‘You know I am blessed. Nimmi says take care of Ruhi. Ruhi says take care of Nimmi. Its really sweet you know. I have the worlds most sensible two women with me’, he smiled.
Ruhi smiled then. She knew Nimmi was very genuine as a person.
‘Then more reason for you not to neglect her. I am fine now. Please go.’ Ruhi pleaded.
‘Arey baba I would have had she been here. She is in Dubai for her business. She will be back in a week. So you relax.’, Randeep told her.
‘Randeep when you come later, will you get me some caramel honey icecream from Melt & Eats? I don’t know why but I am dying to have it.’, she confessed smiling.
Randeep smiled, ‘Of course.. Is there anything else you want? I could buy off Melt & Eats company if you want.’
Ruhi hit him lightly laughing at his suggestion.
‘You can do anything Randeep. I know that’. She said lovingly.
‘Oh shit. I completely forgot. Give me two minutes. I will be back.’he got up urgently patting his head.
Before Ruhi could ask him anything else, he kissed her again.
‘Wont be able to do this later’, he clarified.
She wondered what he was saying.
‘Will be back in 5.’ He almost ran.
Ruhi couldn’t wait for him to return. What was it? And why couldn’t he kiss her later? Sometimes Randeep could be very confusing.
The nurse came and checked on Ruhi. She was doing well.
Ruhi felt a bit limited with her hand in a cast. She settled to look outside the window. Randeep had got her the best room possible with her bed near a huge window so that she could look out. He was so good to her. It as like God was compensating her for the torture she had gone with her ex husband.
The thought again worried her and she wondered where her mobile was. She must ask Randeep.
As her brow wrinkled with worry, Randeep came inside announcing cheerfully, ‘Look who is here Ruhi. You can thank me later’, as he winked at her naughtily.
Ruhi’s mom stood there with misty eyes. And soon Ruhi was crying too looking at her mother standing there with Randeep and Suhail.
….to be continued
Ruhi’s mother rushed to her and soon they were in each other’s arms crying and laughing at the same time, Even Randeep and Suhail were moved seeing them together.
As mother daughter started chatting, Randeep and Suhail left the room to give them privacy. Randeep handed over his car keys to Suhail asking him to drop Ruhi’s mother home whenever she wanted. He told Suhail that he would be going to office for a couple of hours during which time Suhail should be in the hospital. Suhail agreed like a good student.
Randeep started to thank him when Suhail interrupted him and said, ‘She is my friend too Randeep. And my boss too. Its my duty. I will be here for as long as you want.’
Randeep nodded with a smile. ‘Of course’
In office, everyone was happy to see Randeep and wanted to know about Ruhi. Randeep informed everyone that Ruhi was doing well and God willing would be in their midst sooner than later.
He had a lot to catch up on. He had completely forgotten work and office in the past few days. His gaze inadvertently went towards Ruhi’s cabin. It seemed empty and dull and lifeless without her. The whole office seemed dull without her.
Suhail’s words had told him how special she was to each one in office. He had not known that in her own way she had a bond with every colleague. He felt very proud of her and his heart filled with even more love for her.
‘Honey & Caramel Icecream’, she had said, as he smiled remembering her words. He hoped by bringing her mother here, he had atleast managed to lessen her pain to quite an extent.
Anupriya came in to get some papers signed, brief him about pending meetings, calls, Ruhi’s projects which needed a look and hundreds of other things.
Randeep tried to finish as much as he could but his heart was at the hospital. He collected all the pending files and told Anupriya that he would look at all of these at night. He really had to get back to the hospital. Suhail was waiting and Ruhi too must be waiting for him, he hoped.
He found Ruhi sitting by herself and the moment she saw him her face broke into a loving smile.
He was carrying two tubs of her favourite icecream and as he handed them over to her thinking she will start eating immediately, instead she hugged him tight without a warning.
He wondered what it was.
‘Thank you Randeep. Thank you so much. It was only when I saw her that I realised how much I had missed her.’ She confessed.
He held her close, sitting by her bedside and letting her sob her heart out.
Once she was done crying, she pulled herself back and smiled at him through teary eyes. ‘How the hell do you know what I need always?’she asked.
‘Hmmm.. let me think.. I think its love’. He answered.
She hugged him again. And he hugged her back.
‘You know darling its very difficult to control myself when you shower so much love on me. But I cannot forget that you aren’t well. And besides the icecream is melting.’ He said laughingly.
She picked it up then and started eating greedily making ummmmm sounds as she ate.
‘The hospital staff will throw me out if you make such suggestive sounds, Ru.’, he said.
She mock hit him and fed him some icecream too which he happily ate.
He bent to lick her on her cheek where she had icecream and immediately she put some on her other cheek. He licked that off too and then she put some on her lips.
He gave her an incorrigible look and wiped her lips off with his fingers. She sulked.
‘Ru, you know very well that all I want to do right now is to kiss you and God knows what not. But not at the cost of your health. I almost lost you and for some need of mine, I cannot risk losing you again’. He confessed softly.
She looked at him and he continued as she still sulked, ‘I promise when you come home I will dunk you in icecream and eat the whole thing off you’.
Somehow the visual made her smile and she hid her face in his chest as he stroked her back.
‘Ru, what would I do without you girl. You know the office seemed so dreary without you that I carried all the files here.’, he told her.
‘Good. Lets work on them together. I am so bored, having nothing to do.’, she complained.
‘I thought the mother daughter chat must have tired you out.’ Randeep enquired.
‘No, in fact it rejuvenated me. Its so good to have her here. She just wasn’t ready to go. I had to force her to go home and rest.’, Ruhi said.
She then suddenly remembered, ‘You have my phone Randeep? I cant seem to remember where it is.’
‘I do. And I must confess I read your messages to find out what drive you over the edge that day. I wish you had told me Ru instead of keeping all of it in your heart and suffering alone.’ Randeep said complainingly.
Ruhi lay her head on his shoulder then. She put her palm in his and said softly, ‘What all can I bother you with Randeep? Besides I am not very used to discussing my problems with anyone. I am still learning to share them with you. But that day everything happened so suddenly that I lost my sanity’.
He held her closer now. He knew what she meant. In a way, they both were very identical, trying to keep others away from their feelings and managing all of it on their own.
‘But atleast you should have told me about the threats Ru.’
Ruhi looked up in shock. So he knew about that too.
‘I hope you didn’t do or say anything to him Randeep. I don’t want you to.’Ruhi now looked scared.
He held her with both arms and said softly, ‘Not yet Ru but he will be taken care of. You have nothing to fear, did you understand? Nothing to fear.’
Ruhi shivered as he brought her close.
‘It isn’t about myself that I fear.’ Ruhi said.
‘I know. You fear for my wellbeing Ru and I will be completely fine, I assure you. But we cannot build a life fearing someone, can we?’ he asked her looking into her eyes.
Ruhi nodded a no but she wasn’t really sure if what Randeep was intending to do was right. Was he getting into trouble because of her? Would he be safe from that monster? As she thought of all this, she felt a shiver go down her spine. In fact she suddenly started feeling very unwell.
She closed her eyes wishing the dizzy spell would go away just as she wished her husband would go away from their lives forever.
……to be continued.
She entered her home slowly as Randeep held her close, supporting her. She still felt a bit woozy when she walked, her hand was still in a cast, her ribs still hurt but she was goad to be back home.
The doctor had discharged her on the condition that she didn’t over exert herself. Randeep and Ruhi’s mom both had assured the doctor that Ruhi would be well taken care of.
Randeep settled her on the bed. He had got it shifted towards the window so she could look out. Quite a few things had been added to her room to make her comfortable. Randeep had planned all this with Ruhi’s mom.
‘You can call me Raavee, she had said when she had met him the first time.
Randeep had smiled and said, ‘I will call you Ravs. And you call me Deep. Is that a deal?’
‘Yes, no aunty please. Its so old fashioned. First names are so much cooler.’ Ruhi’s mom had chuckled.
He had liked her instantly. She had grey hair and an old world charm about her. She was confident and sparkly even at this age. He bright eyes and infectious smile belied her age. He knew where Ruhi’s good looks came from.
‘You seem to be a very good boss Deep. I wasn’t so lucky.’ Raavee confided.
Randeep laughed. ‘Oh no… no… I am a smart boss. I actually pay my people extra to say good things about me’.
Raavee had laughed at that, ‘Then by now my daughter must be a very rich woman considering all the good things she has to say about you’.
Randeep said, ‘Funny she never says anything to me. Would you be kind enough to repeat some good things she says?’ He nudged her.
Raavee smiled saying, ‘Only if you pay me too’.
Randeep loved her sense of humour. She was very independent just like her daughter and Randeep understood why she didn’t want to shift base to Mumbai.
They had bonded over Ruhi and initially she seemed worried for her. But as Ruhi’s condition improved day by day, Raavee had relaxed.
She had noticed the love for Ruhi Randeep had in his eyes.
‘He loves you a lot, doesn’t he?’, she had sked Ruhi at the hospitl one evening.
Ruhi had blushed and nodded yes. ‘He does Ma but it also scares me. Love doesn’t suit me much, you know.’
‘Oh my my. When did my Ru get so cynical?’, Raavee had taken her in her arms and caressed her hair lovingly.
Ruhi confessed, ‘You know my past Ma. I just hope it doesn’t tarnish my future. Besides Randeep is married. Its too complicated Maa. So don’t dream yet of a happy future for me.’
‘I wont dream, I promise but I wont shut my eyes to the possibility either.’, Raavee looked at her straight in the eye.
Yours and his past shouldn’t be the reason why you cannot be happy today and tomorrow.’, she said.
‘You sound just like Randeep now. He keeps saying this all the time’. Ruhi confided in her mother.
‘People do not come with guarantees and ISI mark Ru. You cannot judge a person sometimes even after being with him or her for several years and sometimes you know in a second. With Randeep I knew at the airport that he loves you. I could see the warmth for me he had because of you’.
Ruhi felt very good listening to her mother about Randeep.
Ruhi’s voice pulled them all back to the present. They were now at home, far from the hospital and its dreary feel.
Raavee excused herself on the pretext of making coffee for everyone.
Ruhi beckoned Randeep to sit near her.
He held her hand and caressed her face. She shifted closer to him, hugging him. She wanted to feel his warmth. She stroked his back as he caressed her shoulder.
‘Randeep…’, she mumbled.
‘Hmmm..’ He had his eyes closed trying to soak in her fragrance. The past few days had been so hectic and stressed that he had just forgotten what it meant to just be with her. To hear her breathe, to feel her heartbeat.
‘Randeep..’ she said again.
He opened his eyes to look at her now.
‘Yes… you practising my name?’
‘I am thinking what to call you. Randeep is too long’. Ruhi said.
‘You can call me anything you want.I am all yours’. Randeep went back to holding her close.
‘Ummmm…Let me think’. She couldn’t come up with any and was disappointed with herself.
He smiled. He loved her even when she sulked.
‘Ru, I love you.’ He said in her ears.
‘I love you too Boss’, she said naughtily.
The sound outside the door made him straighten up and he instantly got up and walked towards the door, helping Raavee to get the coffee.
Ruhi sipped it and looked at her mom. Her mom looked at Randeep who winked at Ruhi.
‘Maa, you hard core coffee fanatic who wouldn’t change a thing in it, how the hell did you add that?’ Ruhi exclaimed.
‘You know the culprit’, Raavee shot back and Randeep took a bow laughing.
Raavee smiled as she left to go to her room to change.
Ruhi said to Randeep, ‘Listen Dee, you must now stop worrying about me and start going to office, ok?’
‘Dee is nice. I like it’.
Ruhi said, ‘Hmm.. me too.. But did you hear?’
‘Yes I did. I will Ru. Stop reminding me about work.’ He felt like a schoolboy who was being reminded of his homework.
Ruhi looked at him and smiled. Weeks before he had been her boss, just that and now, he was her life.
How had things moved so quickly, she wondered.
She tried tying up her hair with one hand but couldn’t. Frustrated she looked at Randeep. He chuckled and tied her hair for her.
‘See you need me. Why push me to go to office then?’ he complained.
He sat next to her now.
‘Ru, I have something to tell you’.
She listened patiently.
‘When you were in the hospital, the chairman called to discuss the possibility of making me the Asia Head of the company.’
‘Wow Dee, that’s awesome. That’s freakingly bloody awesome. Isnt it?’ Ruhi exclaimed.
‘Yes maybe.. I am not sure.’ Randeep replied getting up and walking towards the window.
‘But why?’ Ruhi made a brave effort to get up on her own to follow him and winced in pain.
‘Oh ho Ru. Why do you have to do that? I m sorry. Here, sit. Relax.’ He helped her get back to her bed.
‘Tell me why arent you excited Dee?’ Ruhi persisted.
Randeep sighed, ‘Because it requires me to be based out of Singapore’.
Ruhi’s smile disappeared from her face. Randeep could see that and he didn’t know what to do about it. Damn, when would life be easy for them both.
……to be continued.
Randeep tried to hold her close but she pulled herself away and looked the other way. She didn’t want him to see her crying.
But how could he not?
Her eyes were wet with tears and she was trying hard not to let them fall.
‘Oh Ru, I have not gone yet.. I am just saying its been offered to me.. that’s all’, He pulled her towards him hugging her tight.
She let herself go against his chest and also let the tears flow.
She had got so used to him that now to send him so far seemed tough but at the same time she knew she couldn’t be the one standing between him and his dreams. If anyone in the whole organisation deserved to be Asia Head, it was Randeep. Her Randeep.
She cried to her hearts content as he felt her sobs racking her body.
‘Shhhh.. Ru.. No… you know this isnt good for you… Please… Shit.. I shdnt have told you… Not yet!’, Randeep felt guilty now for making her go through this but he hadnt realised she would take it so badly.
She gathered herself then and wiped her tears and once she was convinced that she was in control, she looked at him bravely.
‘Randeep I do not want you to refuse this because of me, you knw that, right?’ she asked him.
‘What happened to Dee? I am sorry, I said all this. Why punish me by calling me Randeep?’ he sulked.
She smiled halfway through her tears.
‘Be serious Dee… This isnt a joking matter’.
‘Then lets get back to jokes na… We will discuss this later.’, he said simply.
She sighed giving up. She couldn’t win this argument with him.
‘Look.. it isnt that I have to fly out tmrw.. I have time… We have time…’, he said ruffling her hair.
Ruhi smiled half heartedly. They could postpone the decision but they both knew it was like a sword hanging on their head.
The phone rang breaking their thoughts.
It was Bhasker. Randeep listened intently as Bhasker gave him the lowdown. He seemed tensed at first pursing his lips in anger but then slowly his body relaxed and she could see him smile.
Ruhi wondered what was happening. Randeep hung up after thanking Bhasker and telling him he was a saviour.
Ruhi looked at him intentlu.
Randeep looked at her and then slowly went to her. He held out both his hands to hold her. She placed her hands in his and he helped her get up.
She had a quizzical expression throughout. She didn’t know what Randeep was upto.
He held her by the shoulders. He then moved ahead and kissed her cheek.
‘Whats happening Dee?’, Ruhi questioned still confused.
‘Ru.. The courts accepted your plea for a divorce on cruelty grounds and it has also stalled the order where you had to go and stay with that bastard.’, Randeep said slowly as he waited for it to sink in…
Ruhi was numb for a few seconds and then her tears rolled down her cheeks. But these were tears of happiness and relief. She threw herself into his arms and he hugged her with joy, the two almost unable to contain their happiness.
‘How did you do it Randeep… How?’ she said amidst tears and laughter.
Randeep smiled resting his chin on her head, ‘Oh it was as easy as applying nail paint to your toes.’
Ruhi knew that wasn’t the truth.
Randeep recalled how tough it was. The bastard tried all possible means to get Ruhi back with him but money could solve a lot of problems in this world and Bhasker had managed to get a deal out of her ex-husband. A very, very costly deal.
And for that Randeep had to go to Singapore. He had to take up the job. But for now he had Ruhi free. He had Ruhi in his arms. And nothing, just nothing, could be better than that!
….to be continued.
They had hugged for a long time, Randeep recalled later as he lay on his own bed in his home.
Now that Ruhi’s mother was living with her, Randeep was a bit more relaxed, knowing Ruhi was well taken care of. But at the same time, it had curtailed his stays at Ruhi’s house. Her mother was really sweet but he didn’t want her to feel awkward in any way.
As Randeep tried to sleep, Bhasker’s call came back to his mind. Two crores is what Ruhi’s ex had asked for to let her go. Bhasker had called Randeep to ask if he was sure but Randeep was sure about this more than anything in his life. He wanted Ru’s freedom at any cost.
Randeep wondered what he would tell Nimmi though. Two crores is a huge amount to go missing from the account. And though Randeep never intended hiding it from Nimmi, he was damn sure he couldn’t let Ruhi know. She would never accept it.
Randeep would have to explain to Nimmi in his own way.She would be home by morning, she had called earlier to let him know that and he had promised her breakfast made by him.
She seemed very chirpy and happy on the phone and had also enquired about Ruhi. She had again mentioned a get together with Ruhi once she was well.
Randeep was happy to hear the happiness in her voice. He knew she must have cracked some great deals.
Since the past few days, Randeep had developed a schedule of dropping in at Ruhi’s home first and after spending some time with her, he would go to office. He would do the same at night before coming back home.
Ruhi had asked him not to worry so much but he felt good seeing her. He wanted to be with her as much as he could. They had lost half a life finding each other. He wanted now to make every moment count.
He had again taken icecream for her the other day and she had eaten it like a little kid. In fact she had eaten half of his share too. He liked her when she was happy and carefree and kidlike.
Ruhi had asked him if they should tell her mother about the case. Randeep had told her to be the one telling her, not him. He knew her mother too was tensed about it all along and he wanted the mother daughter to enjoy the good news together in their own way. He was still an outsider.
Back at Ruhi’s place, Raavee had screamed with delight and hugged Ruhi like a little doll. She had never been so happy. As a mother, she had prayed every second for her daughters happiness. She had borne the guilt of getting her married to the wrong person, for too long.
Seeing Randeep had absolved her of her long term guilt. Hearing this news had left her relaxed and at peace. She knew there were still many hurdles to be crossed for Randeep and Ruhi to be together but she was sure they would cross them, one step at a time.
Ruhi had dozed off on her mothers lap as she would when she was small. After a long time it was a relaxed, peaceful sleep for both.
Randeep too fell asleep. He was very tired and had to get up early morning to receive Nimmi.
His phone buzzed at almost midnight and Randeep wasn’t sure who it was at such an hour.
To his surprise, it was the chairman. Randeep knew the chairman worked till quite late and picked up the phone unwillingly.
‘Is it a bad time RK?’, his voice boomed.
Randeep said otherwise and the chairman continued.
‘RK, I know I said you have a few weeks to think about the Asia offer but now there is a crisis and you are my best man. So now I am sorry, its not an option but an order. I want you in singapore in the next two days, my boy.’
Randeep’s heart raced as the chairman’s words sunk in.
How the hell would he explain this to Ruhi? She wasn’t even completely ok yet.
But go he must. After pledging most of his savings to the ex husband, Randeep had to get back his fortune in order if he ever wanted to build a life with Ruhi.
He wanted to fulfil every dream of hers and for their future he had to sacrifice their present, he thought.
‘So is it a yes?’asked the chairman wondering what the long silence was about.
‘It’s a yes’, said Randeep though he wasn’t sure if his heart agreed.
As he hung up on the chairman, he felt as if his life was being sucked out of him.
He felt the pain returning to his arm. Damn, living without Ruhi now was just impossible.
……to be continued.
Randeep had a sleepless night. The thought of him being away from Ruhi was just unbearable. Damn, what could he do? He couldn’t say no to the chairman but he couldn’t leave Ruhi behind either.
He had disturbing dreams of Ruhi and he on opposite sides of an island and not being able to reach each other interspersed with him drowning in water and not having the voice to shout for help.
He got up with a start at 7 am. His head throbbed for lack of sleep. He went and stood in the shower for a good 15 mins to awaken himself and ease the headache. He felt much better and after getting dressed, he called up Nimmi to ask where she was.
Nimmi was on her way and Randeep knew she must be starving. She usually liked to have a full breakfast and as the day progressed, she would eat very little.
He decided with mushrooms on toast, fresh orange juice, an egg frittata and some pancakes with candied pineapple. He smiled at himself remembering how in the early days Nimmi used to be shocked at his cooking skills. But he had been to a boys hostel where the food sucked and soon Randeep’s room was the hub of all things delicious where boys knocked at midnight to get fed.
Those were the days. With his looks and rich family background, Randeep had never lacked for girls but none stole his heart. Until now. Until Ruhi.
How he had fallen for her hook, line and sinker. Not in his 20,s or 30’s… In his 40,s. He smiled at the thought.
She had made him go down on his knees the first day she came to office. He knew she was special. Now he couldn’t wait to go down on his knees to propose to her.
And as an omen to his thought, an egg cracked and fell down. Randeep cursed and thoughts of Singapore came flooding back.
Before he could sulk further, the doorbell rang and his house boy opened it to let Nimmi in.
She came flying into the kitchen and gave Randeep a full blown hug.
Randeep was very happy to see her. For some time, he could forget all that was bothering him.
‘You must be starving Nimms. Hai na?’, he asked caringly.
‘The flight food was awful. I didn’t touch it. I knew who was cooking for me back home’. She said happily.
She looked unusually happy. Her cheeks glowed. She had a sparkle in her eyes.
‘How is Ruhi doing?’ Nimmi enquired.
‘Oh she is is improving day by day. Her moms here.. so she is taken care of’, he said honestly.
They lay the table together and settled down to eat. Nimmi ate heartily as Randeep expected. Food was one thing she loved.
Randeep settled for a coffee and a toast. His headache had dulled and he felt better.
After they finished, Nimmi and Randeep walked upto their bedroom and Nimmi sprawled herself across the bed.
‘I could do with a nap after that heavy breakfast’, she confessed.
She held out her hand to Randeep and gestured him to join her.
Randeep was surprised but he lay down on one edge of the bed. They looked like roommates from college.
‘The trips done you well Nimms.’, Randeep said.
‘Yes it has…. Tell me Randeep have you made love to Ruhi yet?’
Randeep was shocked at Ruhi’s blatant question.
‘What?’ he asked, not sure he had heard her right.
Nimmi looked at him and grinned. He looked like a school boy whose mistake had been caught.
‘I am sorry Nimms… I was planning to tel u’, he confessed.
‘You know Randeep, I met someone on the trip.’ Nimmi confessed.
‘Really.. hope he is as good as you’, Randeep probed.
‘Yes, I met him on the flight on my way to Dubai. We became friends and then it seemed destined that we become lovers… and you know something…?’ she asked him turning towards him like an excited schoolgirl.
‘What.. come on.. I cant wait to hear?’ Randeep now seemed really interested.
Nimmi blushed now her cheeks going red.
‘Don’t tell me Nimms… you… you made love?’
Nimmi nodded… Randeep sat up. And then he grabbed Nimmi and gave her the tightest hug he could ever give someone..
Nimmi hugged him back and he was so happy for her.
She looked at him and said, ‘I don’t know how it happened Deep… It felt so right.. so easy.. so comfortable’, she confessed.
‘If it felt right and comfortable, he must be a great guy Nimms’, Randeep was glowing with happiness for Nimmi.
He held her face with his hands and looked softly at her.
‘So strange is our relationship Nimms… I am not feeling bad that my wife made love to another man, but feeling bad that I will miss my best friend.’, Randeep said to Nimmi.
She went misty eyed at his confession and hugged him. ‘I will never have a friend like you Randeep.. You are one gem of a person and friend’.
‘So what are the future plans? This will be the first marriage where the husband will be the best man to give his wife away.’ Randeep said.
‘OMG. You are going too fast Randeep but tell me why havent you and Ruhi made love yet?’ she asked quizzically.
‘You knew I was seeing her?’ Randeep asked.
Nimmi looked at him intently now and Randeep wondered how.
……to be continued.
Nimmi looked at Randeep. ‘No, no not right away. Initially I could just sense you getting calmer. Then I saw you getting happier. I didn’t hear you complaining about your arm pain. I figured something good was happening to you or rather someone good was happening yo you. And that someone wasn’t me.’
Randeep remained silent. He didn’t know what to say. A bit of guilt started creeping in his mind.
Nimmi held his hand and continued, ‘I didn’t know who it was but the day Ruhi fell from the stairs, I knew it was her your heart ached for. I saw it your eyes, the fear of losing her, the hurt to see her hurt, the desperation to save her, the tenderness with which you held her, I knew it was her.’
Randeep smiled, ‘I always knew you were very intelligent Nimms.’
‘Thank you Deep. But you know what, instead of feeling bad, in a way it freed me.,’ Nimmi replied.
Randeep looked at her questioningly.
‘Let me explain. You know Randeep I held on to my past like glue. I wanted a sob story. Yes I am a successful woman but I didn’t let go of my past. It had become me. It was my identity. Maybe somewhere I pitied myself too that it happened to me. That’s why I could never overcome my past with you because I never wanted to overcome it. But when I saw you and Ruhi determined to break away from your past, both of you failing but still trying desperately to make it work, I realised that you wanted to shake off your past so that you could have a new future while I held onto my past so dearly that I wasn’t even encouraging the possibility of a better future’.
Randeep nodded in agreement squeezing her hand which lay in his.
‘A person from your office told me about the horrible past Ruhi has had yet she is this happy girl who wanted to have a happy life. You who had not such a great relationship, found a great relationship and wanted it at any cost. You were ready to deal with any challenges emotional, physical, even financial.’ Nimmi added.
Randeep started to mutter a sorry. ‘I meant to tell you Nimms’ but Nimmi said, ‘No No Randeep, it made me realise that you were ready to give everything to stay with your love, and here I was, clinging to a memory which was not even a happy one.’
Randeep nodded understanding what she was trying to say.
‘The reason I could never progress in my relationship with you is me and my mind block and the reason I could progress with Akshay is because I was ready to let go of my past seeing you and Ruhi. Strange as it may sound, but your falling in love with Ruhi and fighting to keep her in your life made me realise that I too need to fight for my happiness. Only I could bring about that change, not you, not anyone else if I didn’t want it’. Nimmi concluded.
‘You are so right Nimms. Every word you said makes sense to me. I am so glad you could overcome the biggest block in your life. I must really thank Akshay when I meet him’. Randeep said genuinely, happy for Nimmi.
Nimmi now brightened up and asked Randeep, ‘But why havent you and Ruhi made love yet? Whats the block in your case?’ She laughed.
They were like school friends now, sharing their secrets. Randeep laughed and said, ‘Well I don’t know… Things are so complicated in her life. The case, then her accident, it just didn’t happen, not that I have not thought about it or didn’t want it.’
‘Hmmm.. You must make us meet over dinner which you can cook while we bond.’, She added sportingly.
‘Of course. That’s a deal. She likes you a lot. In fact she is a great healer. I would love her to meet you and see if she can ease off any more of your blockages. My arm is much better courtesy her.’ Randeep added.
‘Yes. I would love that. I want to live a compete life now Deep. Am sad that it couldn’t be with you but am thrilled with what the future holds.’, As she said this, she moved into his arms for a hug. He squeezed her tight with a hug and this time she did not stiffen. Her body too felt different today. Clearly Nimmi had worked on her own apprehensions.
‘Nimms, I have to tell you something too.’, Randeep said.
‘Hmmm…’ Nimmi said.
‘I have to leave for Singapore in the next two days to head the Asia region for the company.’, Randeep confessed.
Nimmi straightened up, ‘And what about Ruhi’?
Randeep pulled a face sadly, ‘I have no idea how to tell her Nimms.’
Nimmi felt bad for Randeep now.
‘Cant you just refuse?’, she suggested.
‘I cant. Ethically it isnt correct and I need the money now if I have to build a future for us. The ex husband was very greedy’, he laughed sarcastically.
Nimmi looked at him gently.
‘I don’t know how you will get through this Deep but I sure as hell know, you will find a way for Ruhi.’She said.
Randeep smiled and hugged her, wishing hard in his heart that Nimmi’s words would come true. Only thing he didn’t know the way yet and time was running out.
…….to be continued
While Randeep and Nimmi bonded over after breakfast banter, Ruhi and her mother bonded over coffee with a tinge of coconut oil. They had become so used to it, courtesy Randeep that they could feel his presence in the room.
‘What about when he goes to Singapore? I mean have you both talked about it?, her mother asked concerned.
‘Don’t know Ma. How do you answer such questions? In my heart I know, Randeep is the best candidate for the post. I cannot be selfish by stopping him. I cannot go with him, courtesy my case. So its going to be tough’. Ruhi said practically.
‘Hmm.. I know. But am sure Randeep will figure it out and so will you, as you two have managed till now. You know beta, if you have the intention, everything falls into place. But you must want it badly and purely.
‘Yes ma.. I want Randeep more than my life but love is also about not holding someone back. So I am going to stand by him, no matter what. After all he has done for me, I owe him this much.’, she said looking out of the window hoping she will have the strength to see him go.
And then the doorbell rang and it was Randeep and she could already see her resolve melting. He carried a big bouquet of white and pink lilies. Ruhi hugged him and as she stretched her hand to take the flowers, he pukked them back a little saying, ‘Not for you… for my white haired girlfriend’, much to amusement of Raavee who had reached behind Ruhi.
Ruhi made a sad face and Raavee happily took the flowers thanking Randeep. ‘Ab bolo kya chahiye’? she looked at Randeep straight in the eye.
Randeep held Raavee by the hand and took her towards the hall, ‘I need to talk to you Ravs’.
Raavee was surprised as Ruhi looked on rolling her eyes. He was such a charmer, her Randeep.
They whispered for some time and Ruhi felt like the outsider and went to her room unable to handle the suspense.
He winked at Raavee giving her a big hug as he walked towards Ruhi’s room.
He saw her standing by the window looking oustide. He went to her and put his arm around her. And she wriggled out of his arm. ‘Maa ke liye flowers. What about me?’
He smiled as she sulked. ‘I got you this’, he said pointing at himself as he smiled innocently.
She couldn’t resist being drawn towards him and hugged him. As she dug her head in his chest, safe in the warmth of his arms, she mumbled, ‘What will I do when you go away Dee?’
He didn’t know what to say to her. He himself had no answers. He tightened his grip on her and asked her how her hand felt now. She mumbled it was better.
‘Can you pack your suitcase in half an hour?’, Randeep whispered.
Ruhi looked up surprised, ‘Why, where are we going?’
‘Raavee has already given her permission. I already have my clothes in the car. If you pack yours quickly, I am flying you off to Goa for two days’.
‘Why? I mean… whats the matter? Why Goa?’, she said unsure what was happening.
‘Why? You don’t like Goa? Pondicherry then?’ he asked
‘No no, the place is not a problem Dee.. I am asking why this sudden plan?
‘Because Nimmi asked me why we havent made love yet?’ he said with a naughty gleam in his eye.
It took a while for it to sink into Ruhi what Randeep was saying.
‘You are taking me to Goa for that and my mum has given you permission and Nimmi suggested we make love. What are you talking Dee? She looked all lost now.
‘No no… not like that Ru… But if you pack quickly, I can explain everything on the flight..So shall we rush?’ He asked still enjoying her confusion.
Raavee came in then knocking at the door and said, ‘If you two don’t leave now, I will have to go to Goa myself.’
Randeep laughed as Ruhi smiled too.
These two were partners in crime. How could she not love both of them, she thought as she stepped into the bath to get ready.
Goa seemed tempting and lovely while outside Randeep and Raavee shook hands.
‘Take care of my Ruhi, will you?’
‘Your Ruhi is my life Ravs. Rest assured, I will take care of her every moment for the rest of my life.’ He assured.
And as Raavee’s eyes went misty, he hugged her as only as son could. And as he hugged her, his own eyes went misty. How he wished his mother was alive.
But right now wasnt the time to miss what wasn’t there. Goa beckoned and how!
…….to be continued
They drove to the airport rather quietly. Ruhi knew she could have all the answers later. Randeep held her hand in his and she didn’t care if the driver noticed.
She only had him for some days before he left. Little did she know that she had only two days.
Randeep on his part wondered how he would tell her. He was hoping the serene Goa would act as a balm and soothen the blow the news would give her.
He caressed her fingers absentmindedly while she gave him a peck on his cheek and he made eyes at her good humouredly. And she again pecked his cheek with a kiss.
‘Hmmm.. I can see someone is getting all naughty today.’ He commented.
‘Dee who will handle Mumbai office when you become Asia head?’, She asked him.
‘I have someone on my mind. Lets see if that person is available.’ Randeep answered.
‘How will I accept anyone else as my boss but you? You ave spoilt me rotten’, she complained.
‘I never spoilt you. You earned it with your hard and sincere work. You never tried to impress me and that’s what impressed me the most you know.’, he said honestly looking at her with eyes full of love.
She smiled at him. He had been so good to her and the other staff members. Always supportive and considerate, motivating each one by example to do their best.
The reached the airport and Randeep grabbed both their bags as Ruhi’s hand was still tender.
He was very protective about her and kept her away from passersby who could bump into her hand. He knew it wasn’t the best time for her to travel but he had no other option. He had spoken to her doctor and he had given a go ahead but Randeep still felt guilty of taking her on a trip when she was not 100% well.
As they cleared their security checks, he took her to the business class lounge for a coffee and finally they had some peace around them.
She looked lovely even in a simple top and jeans. As she sipped on her coffee, he looked at this woman who had changed his life.
She found him staring at her and gave him a questioning look.
‘So tell me Ruhi, why havent we made love yet?, he asked her as innocently as he could.
‘I don’t know Dee… Can you ask Randeep please? Maybe he doesn’t find me desirable enough?’ she complained good naturedly.
‘Is he mad? I can bash him up for you. Should I?’, he offered.
‘Let him be. You cannot force someone, can you?’, she suggested gently.
‘Hmmm… no problem. If he isnt interested, he is a loser. But I am not. If I can be of any service, please let me knw madam. He was totally teasing her now as she blushed and grinned.
‘I will let you know mr.opportunist.’. She finished her coffee as he sipped his.
The announcement beckoned them to board the plane and he held her hand and reached the boarding gate.
‘Listen Dee, Did Nimmi really say that…? That why havent we made love?’, she asked with a surprised tone.
Yes.. she did. Randeep replied. Ruhi didn’t know what to make of it and Randeep was enjoying her confusion.
‘I will tell you everything sweetheart. Lets settle into our seats and then I am all yours’. He leaned in to kiss her cheek.
Ruhi felt conscious looking around if anyone was watching them.
‘Its alright Ru. Don’t worry about people. I am not worrying.Why would you?’. Randeep assured her.
She wasn’t surprised they were travelling business class. Randeep always pampered her and knwoing she wasn’t well, she knew he wouod go the extra mile.
They settled in and Randeep held her hand and whispered to her, ‘Did you realise Ru this is our first official date?’
Ruhi looked at him and realised it was indeed. ‘Yes it is.. I mean we have travelled together but those were always for work. Wow Dee…I love it!’she whispered in glee.
‘Are you tired? Does your hand hurt? The doc will give me hell if I don’t take care of you’. Randeep cribbed.
‘I have never been better Dee. Don’t worry so much. Now tell me why Nimmi asked that question’ Ruhi asked him.
Randeep realised she was getting a bit fidgety now and decided to tell her everything.
As he filled her in with all of his chat with Nimmi that morning, Ruhi could only wonder in amazement. She was very happy for her that she had or atleast was trying to find her happiness. It also meant that a lot of baggage was off Randeep’s shoulders as well. They had never let guilt get the better of them but the thought of Nimmi was always there.
She snuggled in closer to Randeep and said, ‘Is that why we are going to Goa? To celebrate?’
He leaned in closer, and nuzzling her ear said, ‘I am determined to correct the mistake your Randeep made. Of not making love to you.’ He whispered.
She went red with the touch of his lips on her ears.
She looked at him happy and blushing at the same time while she held his hand tightly in hers.
Randeep was all hers now. That thought was so warm and fuzzy and comforting and happy. She closed her eyes and settled into a nap on his shoulder.
He watched her as she slept and wondered how in a few hours, he would have to break her happy bubble with the news of his leaving.
He hated doing that to her. He hated leaving her behind. He hated even breathing without her by his side. And here, he had to travel miles away from her for a job he didn’t even care about anymore. All that he wanted was for Ruhi to be by his side forever, just like she was right now.
He kissed her head as she slept. He was lucky to have her right now with him but luck was running out.
He whispered ‘I love you Ru’ and she smiled in her sleep and said, ‘Me too Dee… Please don’t leave me and go’.
And that last sentence literally froze him as he just didn’t know what he would do when it was time to let her know.
…..to be continued.
The landing plane imitated what Randeep felt in his sinking heart. He just hoped and prayed that Ruhi would handle it well and his news wouldn’t affect her health in a negative way.
He now questioned whether bringing her to Goa was a wise decision after all. Maybe being with her mother when he broke the news would have been better for Ruhi.
He tried to shake off the feeling as they got into the car sent by the hotel. He tried to think how special he could make this trip for Ruhi so that the news wouldn’t be a shock for her.
The drive through the greenery and calm and narrow lanes of Goa put Ruhi in a good mood. Randeep too relaxed a bit as the car drove through the winding roads. Ruhi hugged him and he smiled at her. He liked to see her happy. It made him all warm and fuzzy inside. He put his arm around her shoulder.
‘Am glad you slept off in the plane. Its goodfor you to rest.’, he said.
‘I had a warm, strong shoulder to lean on. What could I do other than dozing off, hmm?’, she answered good naturedly as he tightened his hug around her.
‘You wont ask me where we are are heading?’, Randeep asked her.
‘No.. why should I? I am sure wherever you take me will be a great place.’, she said caressing his cheek.
He held her hand in his then.
‘You trust me na Ru. You know whatever I do will be the good for both of us na?’, he asked gently as if he wanted to hear that from her.
Ruhi looked at him a bit concerned. ‘Why would you ask that Dee? You know I trust you kore than anyone else. If I had to place my life in someone’s hands, it would be only you. No one else.’
He squeezed her palm which lay in his and brought it to his lips to kiss.
‘You ok Dee?’
‘Why wouldn’t I be ok? You are with me. We are in Goa. Why wouldn’t I be ok?,’ he tried assuring her. He didn’t want her getting stressed. Not yet.
She relaxed herself satisfied with his answer and he was glad she did that.
The car drove into the hotel gate. They were instantly guided to their room and Ruhi whistled to see a pool right in the middle of their room.
‘That’s royal Mr. Kapadia.’, she said teasing him.
He closed the door after the bell boy left and walked towards her and taking her in his arms.
She hugged him back and for a few minutes they just hugged each other and soaked in each others warmth.
He realised he hadnt hugged her like that for days now. With her mom being there, Randeep had to watch his moves.
She looked up and Randeep couldn’t resist kissing her. She returned it equally hungry for it and soon the dormant passion lying in both of them took the better of them. They kissed hungrily both not getting enough of each other.
They parted when the doorbell rang and Randeep swore on the timing. The bellboy had come to give them water and other essentials and this time Randeep remembered to put the ‘Do not disturb’ sign on the door.
Ruhi had by then moved to the open courtyard outside their room and beautiful wasn’t the word to describe it. It was outdoor yet it had a privacy for them and she moved around to explore more.
Randeep grabbed a few juices from the bar fridge and sat in the lounge chair placed in the courtyard.
Ruhi went towards him and sat on his lap, ‘Its beautiful Dee.. This villa.. How do you find such interesting places?’ she complimented him.
‘Just like I found you’. He said.
She smiled. He noticed the earrings she was wearing. He touched them and a thrill ran down her spine. He loved the effect his touch had on her.
‘These are the same ones?’he asked.
‘Yes… the same ones you found for me on the first day’, Ruhi said.
‘You know Ru I think I lost my heart to you that first day itself’, Randeep confessed.
‘Really? That soon?’, she asked.
‘Yes. I realised it later probably but I remember my gray room instntly lighting up when you entered it and felt cold soon after you left. I remember noticing that for sure.’ He told her.
‘But you never told me?’, she complained.
‘How could I? I hardly knew you but I knew I was falling for you and I couldn’t stop it. I would see others hugging you, laughing and chatting with you and I would feel very, very jealous.’, he said like a child.
She lay her head on his chest and said, ‘Awww… my poor Dee. You should have just told me. I would have hugged you too’.
He caressed her back, ‘And you know what happened when you finally hugged me’.
She laughed, ‘Yes I do’.
He ran his fingers down her arm and neck and purposely played with her earrings and she complained asking him to stop but didn’t want him to stop.
‘You hungry Ru? You have to take your medicines, you know. Its much after lunch time.’, Randeep reminded her.
‘See how can we ever end up making love if you are always worried about me’, she said.
He laughed and said, ‘Whoever got scolded for being worried about his girlfriend’.
‘Shall we order room service or you want to go to the beach and eat?’, he asked her.
She moaned and complained and cribbed but he forced her out of her lethargy.
‘Listen I hate to let you go away from me. But uou have to eat, ok?’. He ordered.
‘Ok… Dee.. I hate you…’ she got up unwillingly.
‘I can barely walk and here you are forcing me to get out and eat.', She complained.
He swung into action and picked her up in his arms. If you cannot walk, I will carry you, but eat you must. As he walked towards a door and it opened on the beach and she gasped in awe to see that the whole ocean was in front of her.
She put her arms around his neck as he proudly carried her on the sand while a few people on the beach gave him a thumbs up. Ruhi giggled and got conscious with the attention but there was no place else she would be right now than in Randeeps arms.
'I listened to you. Now you have to listen to me Dee.'
'Yes, I am always listening to you darling.' He said as he kissed her lips while carrying her.
'Promise me that we will make love when we are back from lunch.'
He laughed loving that thought. 'Yes we will but before that we will do something else I have in mind.'
'We can do that later no?'
'No. First we do that and then you decide if you still want to make love with me.'
'What is it Dee? Why would I not want to make love after it? What are you hiding?
'Arey don’t get so serious. We will do lunch and then talk about it, ok. Believe me, its nothing serious.'
She looked at him not sure what he implied.
He put her down and held her face on his hands.
'You said you trust me na. Will you trust me till we have lunch and get back? Please?'
She nodded and he held her by the arm and led her towards the restaurant.
She still looked at him unsure. He decided she would not let ho so easily, so he turned back and kissed her till she forgot everything and begged him to stop.
He let go of her and said, 'Now if I see even a thought line on hour forehead, I promise you I will kiss you hard again in front of everyone.'
She giggled at the warning as she entered the restaurant with him.
She let her fears rest but his heart had that funny, sinking feeling again. He just wished now that Ruhi wouldn’t see it. He just wished that these two days would never end. But he knew he was chasing the impossible and beyond this lunch lay something he just couldn’t avoid.
….to be continued.