hi..azure here….i am back with next part. sorry for the delay. am still travelling so replies are short and haven’t been able to read other stories. sorry.
Ria Khanna – Ragini
Shiv Kapoor – Sanskar
Lav Khanna – Laksh
Shikha Lav Khanna – Swara
Sharad Khanna – Shekhar
Jaya Khanna – Janki
Deepak Kapoor – DP
Aarti Kapoor – AP
Arun Kapoor – Adarsh
Preeti Kapoor – Parineeta
It had taken almost two weeks of regular working at the office under him, for Lav to have some confidence in Ria. She had put her all into the work. There had been times when she had lost that one odd contract to Shiv, much against her annoyance, but Lav was generally happy with her track record, especially she had done a lot better than the rest of his team had. It also helped that he had been pulled into other businesses by her father, allowing her some leeway in suggestion solutions and business plans around new proposals.
“Okay. Thank you Mr Bhalla” Lav said to the person on the other end of the call before cutting it.
“Lav at least don’t get into calls when we are having dinner” Jaya told him softly
“It was really important” Lav commented before turning to his father
“All phones these days are important” Jaya muttered under the breath, which didn’t get missed by Ria. She smiled at her mom, before listening to her brother’s conversation with her father.
“Papa, that was Bhalla” Lav told their father, seriously “He has a land that might work well for that Echo Hotel’s proposal”
Sharad nodded “So what is the problem?” he asked calmly
“Kapoors might be vying for the plot adjacent to it. They could also go after this one. He thinks they are interested in closing this in the next day or two” Lav explained
“So why don’t you go and check it out?” Sharad suggested
“I would, except we have that site inspection at the Pune unit. I want to oversee it. Just in case” he said quietly
Sharad nodded “No. You are right. One of us has to be there. Khedar is inspecting, right?” he asked looking at Lav. Lav nodded “He doesn’t like us much. He will try his best to find issues even when there are none”
“We cannot afford to leave it to the operations managers” Lav agreed
“I have to be in Delhi to talk to the ministry to clear our license so that we can sign that franchise deal. We have finally gotten some time with them after months” Sharad mused aloud
“I could do it” Ria jumped in. She had been looking for more opportunities to show that she could handle things beyond the project proposals.
“Do what?” Lav asked
“Check out the land” Ria suggested eagerly
Lav looked at her apprehensively “You have never done any land deal before” he put in bluntly
“Can you take the time out to visit the property, Bhai? No! Papa cannot either. Where does that leave us? With Kapoors getting the land without much effort” Ria pointed out.
Ria knew her brother enough to know that he would never be okay with that. She hated playing this card, but he never seemed willing to hand her more responsibility without Kapoors being brought into the picture. It was ironic that Shiv, and the Kapoors, who loved to see her lose, were unintentionally helping her gain more responsibility that she wanted.
Lav scowled before muttering “Fine!”
“Lav! Sharad! How can you send her there on her own? It won’t be safe!” her mother exclaimed “What if something happens? Where is this land anyway?” she asked
Lav seemed ready to reconsider as did her father. They were extremely protective of her.
“Mom, I was in New York. Alone for 7 years. It is far more dangerous there” Ria said softly, holding her Mom’s hand, trying to reassure her “Besides, it is not even going to be like NY, where I use public transport. I will be going by our car and coming back as soon as I check the land out”
“Rahul was there with you” Jaya told her firmly “Besides, your father” she said sharply, looking pointedly at Sharad, “convinced me against my wishes!”
Ria smiled at her Mom “If Papa convinced you about it, how could it be against your wishes?”
“Because she didn’t want to be convinced” her father explained. “Jaya, who do you think our kids get their stubbornness from?” he quipped with a teasing smile
Jaya humphred before turning to Lav “Where is this land?”
“In Pedhe village. It is near Chiplun town. It is about 6-7 hours away from here. There is a former Taj hotel, where I usually stay and then return the next day itself, when I travel to that area” Lav explained to him mom. He was still looking at Ria skeptically. Now because of his worry over her going there along, rather than for business reasons.
“Mom! Please don’t do this. I will be fine. I will stay at Taj, just like Bhai. I will have the car with me. I will come back first thing next day” Ria pleased pulling her hand
“Papa! Please convince her” Ria told her father making puppy eyes
“Let her do this Jaya” Sharad said visibly pouting
Jaya rolled her eyes “May be I should go with her” she mused
“Mom!” Ria exclaimed, straightening up a bit “I am not going to school for you to drop me off there.”
“Maa” Shikha said softly “Aren’t you helping Mrs Ghosh with Sujoy’s wedding preparations?” This was the first time she had spoken in the matter. Though she was usually active in discussions in the house, she usually tried to refrain when it came to matters concerning Ria. While they had started their relationship anew when she married Lav, there were still some distances to be bridged.
“That is very important” Ria quickly added “You have made Sharmilee aunty a promise. You cannot back out of it now”
Sharad chuckled. Jaya looked at him pointedly “So what do you expect? That we let our grown beautiful daughter go out there all alone!” she chided him
“Mom! I will call you regularly to update. If I can handle the mugs in NY, I can handle people here. I know self-defense” Ria pleaded
“What mugs in NY?” Jaya exclaimed wide-eyed “Sharad, did you know about this?”
“Mom! I was just giving an example. Nothing happened to me. I always carry pepper spray with me” Ria tried to reason with her.
“I will send Gopal with her. You know he won’t let anything happen” Sharad suggested “And you have to call your Mom and I, every hour, to update us” Sharad told her
“Every two hours” Ria said trying to negotiate
“Fine! Every two hours” Sharad agreed. He looked at Jaya “Jaya?” he asked softly
“When the two of you have decided, why are you bothering asking me!” Jaya said making a face
“Mom! Please don’t me mad. I want your blessings. I need your support. This is the first land deal that I am looking at” Ria told her softly
Jaya looked at her for a few minutes before her stance softened “I worry about you”
“I know Mom” Ria told her understanding “I will be very careful. I promise”
And that was how, a day later, Ria found herself travelling to the small village called Pedhe, after many many sessions of warnings on how she had to keep all of them posted.
She looked out of the car. They had crossed Pune just some time back. She knew Lav would be there in the city that day, helping with inspection. She had travelled this route a lot, as a child, when they spent time at their holiday bungalow in Lonavala. She hadn’t been there in years. She hoped to visit it again, together as family, once she settled down a bit more in her work.
She took in the sights along the road. The tiled houses, small bungalows, buildings as they passed by, before they entered expanses of greenery. Monsoon season hadn’t begun full-fledged yet but the different shades of green always made her feel happy and peaceful.
She had been lost, enjoying the views around, when the car swirled sharply and banged into something. The entire car shook, despite having a solid body. She braced herself quickly against the front seat even as airbags popped up. Everything had happened in a matter of seconds. She felt dazed! Lost! Shaken! She sat there glued to her seat, clenching the front seat headrest and she tried to make sense of things.
As she looked around, she realized that Gopal had managed to get his bearings and had stepped out. There was a bit of commotion outside, but she stayed put, inside the car, for a minute. She took a few deep breaths, before she opened the door.
She stepped out, still firmly holding the door. Her legs were shaking a bit from the scare.
As she calmed down a bit more, she realized that their car had banged against a tree. There was another small car inches away from theirs. Luckily it had avoided all impact. Some distance ahead, there was another Audi, similar to theirs only black in color, which had hit another tree on the opposite side of the road.
She saw that the owner of the small car was fighting with Gopal and the driver of the other Audi. There was a man, clad in a leather jacket and jeans, standing against the door of that Audi. His back was facing her. He seemed to be trying to get bearings of the area.
She looked around herself. The road seemed much narrower than the national highway they were supposed to travel on. She realized they must have moved away from the national highway. She vaguely remembered being detoured along this narrower road a while back.
When she looked the other way, she realized there was a decent bit of crowd gathering behind them for some reason, in addition to the traffic.
As she turned around, her eyes fell on the man who had till then been standing against the other Audi. He had turned around and walked over to where the drivers were hot in discussion. Her eyes widened looking at him. His eyes met hers almost at the same instance.
“You!” they both screamed at the same time
“Only you could have caused this!” they screamed again
“Arghh!” he yelled
“Shut up!” she shot back
“Why don’t you follow your own advice?” he spat at her
“Why did I see your face? Now my whole day is going to be ruined!” Ria remarked angrily
“My day isn’t going all that pleasant after seeing you” Shiv retorted
“Are you sure you didn’t see your own face in the mirror?” Ria asked him, annoyed
“It better than being you, who cannot even see your face in the mirror. Being vampire and all!” he snapped right back
“Don’t tempt me to bite you and turn you into undead” Ria warned him
“There is ample wood around here. Don’t tempt me to stab you” he warned
“What is going on here?” someone yelled from behind them
“Stay out of this!” they both yelled out at the same time, turning to warn the person, only to realize it was a police constable.
“Getting into accident. Causing traffic jam. Yelling at the police. Asking police to stay away. Hmmm!” the constable commented, lifting his eyebrow, as he ticked through his list while looking at them sternly.
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