Preeti could no longer hold it. She released her seatbelt and bent forward towards him. He did the same and held her close. She held his jacket lapels and looked at him as she cried.
He held the back of her head and slammed his lips to hers. There was no ascending of pressure this time. His hungry lips were demanding and she was only too happy to oblige. Oh God…how much she wanted this… her insides tingled as she tightened her grip on him. She pushed herself towards him further wanting more contact as he explored her mouth. His other hand tried to pull her towards him again… till suddenly there was a loud horn of a passing truck with startled them as it passed them loudly and faded away. But the moment was gone. He placed his forehead on hers… their breathing laboured.
She spoke softly. “Why Gautam? Why are you doing all this? You could have just asked me to marry you…you always knew I loved you…”
He released her and said. “Preeti I have always told you there is a lot more than what meets the eye. It was never going to be easy. I had to ensure Rewa and Suyash were safe… It took a lot of planning and execution…”
They put on their seat belts and he stated the car again.
“We will halt in a while for a quick lunch.” He told her.
She nodded and looked outside the car window. It was as if he was a different person now.
After a while she asked him, “Gautam?”
“What if…. What if I hadn’t come to Bhiwadi at all like you had ordered in Mumbai? What would have happened then?”
“Preeti let it go… Actually my marrying Rewa for namesakes… that was the original plan. But it was going to be complicated for all of us. Nonetheless, you came back and made things easy for us and we changed the plan. By the way, with you in picture Rewa could freely meet Suyash.”
“What? When?” she asked surprised.
“You remember the first day you came to the bungalow and Rewa had escaped upstairs?” She nodded and he continued. Actually Suyash was waiting for her there. In fact Suyash visited her every night… even the night I came to your room…I knew he was there…” She saw a hint of a smile on his face.
“That means if…if… I wouldn’t have been here, you would have married Rewa didi?” she sounded stunned.
“Preeti… like I said, it would have been a namesake marriage just to show the world. For six months… I would have returned to Mumbai and she would have continued her relationship with Suyash. No one would have doubted anyways…. Then post six months she would have officially separated from me and married Suyash. But you made things easy…” She saw a stern face with eyes not moving from the road.
“Gautam…what is this deal about six months?”
“Preeti please don’t ask me questions for which I can’t answer you now. When the time comes you will know…”
Preeti knew it was useless to ask him anything further. But she was relieved that he didn’t betray her for Rewa didi. She chided herself for doubting him but the situations were such and he never bothered to clarify. Buts she should have seen the signs. Rewa now was with the love of her life. That mattered more. Preeti prayed that her sister would get all the happiness in life. Her eyes filled thinking about the wonderful times they had shared in childhood. She hoped she would know why her sister was apologising to her yesterday.
Soon they reached a roadside dhaba and Gautam pulled over. Why wasn’t he halting at some decent hotel? She thought. Instead he was stopping at spooky places. Here as well, he got out alone and checked around the place. As she sat in the car she unlocked her phone to check for the messages. She had a couple of texts from her colleagues wishing her a happy married life. The third text was from Tanveer Raisingh. Her heart beat accelerated as she opened the message.
‘Stall your visit… don’t go to Kota. It’s dangerous… V r trying to control situation from here… It may turn bad. Call me if psbl. Delete msg after reading.’
Preeti did that and waited silently in the car wondering what else was in store. She had to speak to the Inspector. Gautam waved to her and gestured her to join him. She got off the car and went towards him. The heat was killing. She decided to use the washroom again. Here the latrine was a little away and Gautam accompanied her. How would she make that phone call? They had a quick lunch and were on the road again. They still had about three hours to reach Kota. She wondered how she could prevent them from reaching their destination.
She thought of a plan. She acted as if she was feeling giddy and wanted to throw up. She made him stop the car. Gautam obliged and was out and reaching her side within seconds. He opened the passenger door and helped her out of the seatbelt. He held her hand and supported her as she got out of the vehicle. She bent and dry heaved on the side of the road. He was there right behind with a bottle of water. He held her hair together behind her neck and also supported her shoulders with his other hand. She was touched by his tenderness and loved the comfort she derived by his closeness. How she missed him… She was feeling guilty about lying to him. But she also trusted Tanveer Raisingh. What else could she do now? She started to think. Meanwhile Gautam held her close to him and she rested her head sideways on his chest breathing deeply.
“Preeti…are you alright?” He asked softly and she felt the vibrations from his chest right to her core. She nodded and he took her to a nearby tree. Luckily there were a few this side. Otherwise the entire stretch so far was barren. He took off his jacket and spread it on the ground in the shade. He held her hand gently. “Preeti…just rest a bit. We will leave in sometime…”
She was so overwhelmed she couldn’t say anything. She only nodded and sat on the jacket. The jacket was huge so she moved a little and patted her side gesturing him to join her. To her disappointment he shook his head and walked away to make a phone call. She saw him talk animatedly as if he was angry. He turned and saw her looking at him and walked further away in the sun to continue his conversation. She decided to take this opportunity and immediately dialled the number she had called last. Tanveer Raisingh immediately answered on the first ring.
“Ms. Sengar… are you Ok?”
“Yes Sir… but what is the news about Kota?”
“Ms. Sengar Please don’t go there. Try your best to stall it… you guys are supposed to reach the district court but it closes at 4PM for the public. You were to barely make it. But there is a crowd of agitated people waiting for Vikram right outside. You may be collateral damage… Once the court is shut they will disperse on their own…. So delay…I repeat Ms. Sengar Delay the visit…”
Preeti had too much to process. “But sir…why is he taking me there?”
“Ms. Sengar I still have to confirm the reason. I will update you soon… meanwhile take care of both of you…”
Before she could ask him anything further she saw Gautam was moving towards her still talking on the phone. She disconnected and kept the phone back in the purse. She saw the time. It was nearing 2.30 PM. They still had quite a distance as per the Google map she had seen some time ago. She had to do something quickly but what?
He came up to her. “I hope you are feeling better. You spoke on the phone so you should be fine…” He gave her a strange look. She smiled and said, “Yes Gautam… I had to call office. I am feeling better now…”
She stood up and moved. Without a word he picked his jacket and brushed it. He then went to the car and without a word opened her door for her. Once she was seated he shut the door loudly she startled. What was upsetting him? His phone call or hers? She couldn’t make out. But she was sure they wouldn’t make it to Kota on time. She rested her head on her seat and started to watch the passing scenery as he started the car. Within minutes he was driving like a lunatic. She had to hold the side bar above to keep herself in place in spite of the seatbelt.
“GAUTAM…Slow down…you will kill both of us…”
“Gautam…please…slow down this is scary… I can’t…”
“…Throw up in the car if you want to but we are reaching Kota as planned… it’s a matter of life and death…”
She was stunned to silence. It was nothing new given her situation these days.
She however tried pleading with him continuously but of no avail. They almost reached their destination in record time. He was out of the car even before it completely stopped. Her heart was in her mouth and now she feared what the inspector had told her. She had no choice but to trust Gautam. She knew for sure he would never endanger her. With that confidence she alighted from the car.
As told there was a gathering before the gates of the district court. They barely had half an hour before closing and she could see Gautam was restless and angry. There were police trying to control the situation. Gautam held her hand and started to walk towards the gate.
Was he nuts? She resisted, fear evident on her face. He looked at her, his eyes blazing. “Not now Preeti…I don’t have patience for all this. Let’s get going…” he held her by the left elbow. It was the same hand he had held tightly today morning and it hurt her as his angry fingers dug deep. She tried to make him loosen his grip but he only dragged her further worsening the pain. The only solution was she would comply. She moved as fast as her legs could carry her. He was moving swiftly and she struggled to keep up with him. Her skin was burning where he held her. But that was least of her worries. As they reached she heard the crowd screaming…
PACHAO JAAVNOU Vikram…
She knew from her limited repertoire of the local language that it meant ‘Go Back Vikram’. But why? What was happening?
As they moved towards the crowd, she heard the crackle first. She could never be mistaken with the sound. It was as rifle. The shot sounded next and she recoiled back ward. A piercing pain shot her other arm. She looked down on her right and saw her arm was bleeding. Oh God… she was shot. She almost fell but Gautam held her close and tried to drag her towards the police vehicles. But the shot had caused a chaos and people were running in different directions. Gautam lifted her in a fireman’s carry and started running. She was losing conscious mainly because of the pain. She blocked all the sounds around her and focused on her breathing…
But there was only so much she could endure and then everything went blank…
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