Hey Guys! I am officially the worst promise – keeper ever. Sorry for that, was stuck in a bit of undesirable situation. Anyhoo, here i the new update. Hope you guys like this too 🙂
Link to Previous Chapter : episode-2
I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but a day of shopping and pampering with my sister was medicinal, to say the least. She really was the best. Not only was she my sister, she was my best friend. All day she kept encouraging me to go and get my job back, but I still wasn’t sure. Even though in my head I had completely gotten over Lakshya, there seemed to be some murky water under that bridge in my heart. To this very day, he was the only man I had ever loved. I’d tried to be in love again on several other occasions, and I’d even had men tell me they loved me, but I just hadn’t met anyone who made me feel like Lakshya had.
I’d thought, on occasion, that maybe I was defective and that I could only fall in love with men that would never love me back. Or maybe I had trust issues because the first person I expressed my love abandoned me, but Shikha said I was just making something out of nothing.
“Look at your life—you’re the most trusting and open person I know. You just haven’t met the right guy yet,” she said.
Easy for her to say; she met Vidyut when she was eighteen and was married at twenty-two. I wouldn’t say I was jealous of her; it was more like holy envy. Is there such a thing? I don’t know, but what I did know was that I wished on many occasions I was married and had children. I would have traded in deal making and conference calls for Parent – Teacher meetings, sports days and diapers in a second. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my job, or at least I used to love it. I kept forgetting I didn’t have one anymore.
I just wanted more. No, that wasn’t it. I think I just wanted more personal fulfilment. Dancing could only give me so much, no matter how good my butt looked. By the time I arrived back at my apartment, the sun was just beginning to set. I unloaded my haul for the day. I looked over the plethora of bags and thought maybe I shouldn’t have shopped like I was still gainfully employed. Oh well, you only live once, right? Besides, it was for medicinal purposes, and I if had to look for a new job, I needed to look my best. Or if I didn’t find a new job soon, I needed to look good lying out by the pool in my complex; my new swimsuit would do the job nicely. Maybe I would have to eat ramen for the next week or two, so what?
With my heavy load I was thankful, once again, to live on the bottom floor, but like my sister reminded me again today, it would be more convenient to have a garage to pull into. I told her I would think about house shopping … maybe. I looked longingly at the pool again. Soon, I thought. It was then I noticed a man in a suit sitting on one of the poolside chairs. My first thought was, Wow, someone who wants the pool to open more than me, but that was before I got closer and noticed who it was. Then I thought, well … some words I shouldn’t say out loud. My next thought was “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
As soon as he noticed me, he rose and walked my way. I just kept walking toward wing’s lobby, ignoring him and hoping he would accidentally fall in the pool, or better yet, go back to Delhi or wherever he came from. I just assumed Delhi, because that’s where he had grown up and that’s what his license plate said, but who knew. I for one didn’t care, just as long as it wasn’t here.
“Ragini!” he called out after me.
I didn’t respond. I climbed the stairs and just kept walking to my door. I really didn’t have anything to say to him. I made it to my door and dropped my bags to retrieve my key. Dear God, why did I have to stay on the first floor? Unfortunately, he couldn’t take a hint and he met me at my door. I looked over to him.
“I feel like I keep saying this to you today. What are you doing here? Better yet, how do you even know I live here?”
He ran his fingers through his hair.
Lucky fingers, I thought dumbly.
“Well, maybe if you answered your phone, I wouldn’t have had to track you down.”
“I still want to know how you know where I live,” I fired back.
“I have access to all the employee files.”
I glared at him. “Well, I’m not an employee anymore.”
He sighed heavily. “Come on, Ragini, can you give me a break here. It’s been a long day.”
I smirked. “And I should care, why?”
I could tell he was ready to lash back, but he stopped himself and took a breath and thought before he spoke. “Ragini, I’d like to talk to you about rescinding your resignation.”
He sounded sincere.
“Fine, you have two minutes. Go.”
I think his lip twitched like he was going to smile. “Can’t I come in?”
I shook my head. “I don’t let strangers, especially of the male variety, into my apartment.”
He crossed his arms and narrowed his gorgeous brown eyes at me “Ragini, you know me.”
“Isn’t funny how sometimes the people we think we know the best are the ones we really don’t know at all,” I said with glee.
He stood there and stared at me for a moment. I didn’t budge. I was serious about not letting him into my apartment, and I was serious about not knowing him. After he broke up with me that was one of the hardest parts for me to reconcile. I thought I knew him so well, but in reality I didn’t know him at all, because my version of Lakshya may have freaked out a little bit about the whole love thing, but he never would have treated me so harshly.
He bravely stepped toward me and softened his tone. “I have a feeling I’m going to need more than two minutes to convince you. Can I take you to dinner?”
I stared into his deep brown eyes. I noticed he had some subtle lines around them now, and I even noticed a gray hair or two in that dark hair of his.
So much had changed in thirteen years. Thirteen years ago I wouldn’t have even given his invitation a second thought, but now I needed a third and even a fourth thought.
While I was mulling over his invitation, he smiled at me. “Will this impose on your dance class?”
I half smiled and shook my head no. I was still so embarrassed about the butt incident this morning. What do I have to lose? I thought. “Fine, wait here.”
He visibly relaxed.
I opened my door and hauled all my bags in. I found my lazy cat, Tom, lying on the top of my couch just waiting to be adored. Yes, I named him Tom from Tom n Jerry, when every loved Jerry in the cartoon I always sympathised with Tom, poor cat was just following his natural instinct. I stroked his head several times until he purred. He was such a diva. Then I freshened up a bit. I smiled to myself to think of Lakshya standing out in the cold. Maybe that was rude, but the guy did break my heart once upon a time and he stole my job. And if memory served me correctly, he enjoyed cooler temps. After I took my own sweet time, I walked back out to meet him.
He was walking around the pool area looking around. When he saw me, he walked back my way. “Great, you’re ready.”
We proceeded to the parking lot, and he tried to make small talk. “This is a nice complex, do you like living here?”
I shook my head yes. “Yes. For apartments they’re great; a little pricey, but worth it.”
“Hmm …” he said. “Should I drive?” he asked as soon as we made it to the parking lot.
“I was just planning on following you in my car.”
He raised his eyebrow at me. “You won’t ride with me either?”
“You know what they say, stranger danger,” I said without apology. He tried to compose himself before he spoke. “I forgot how stubborn you were.”
I smiled in mock delight. “So, where are we going?”
“Why don’t I follow you, so you don’t think I’m luring you anywhere?”
I smiled toothily “Perfect.”
He just stared at me and shook his head. I let him get in a few more looks before I walked away, smiling to myself for throwing him off his game. I honestly wasn’t worried about Lakshya taking advantage of me. Heck, I had to practically throw myself at the guy when we first started dating. Our spark was undeniable, but boy did he try and fight it. Looking back, I suppose he was right to; I was awfully young at the time, but the heart wants what it wants, and boy did my heart want him.
He followed me to my favourite restaurant, Pot Pourri. I personally knew the owners, Preeta and her husband, Naveen. They were my first account as a junior account manager at Rumtek Media. That was seven years ago. They still used the logo and ad designs I created for them. The design had an old world feel—we used an old world map as the back drop. I’d since offered to touch it up or create a new one for them, but they’d become very attached to it.
Lakshya had no trouble keeping up with me. I kept wondering what he was thinking about as he followed me. I was surprised he was going to all the trouble; I thought he would’ve been happy to see me go. Funnily enough, my sister thought otherwise. She’d predicted he would ask me to come back. She believed he had ulterior motives for coming to Rumtek Media, but I’d told her she was crazy. “Crazy like a fox,” she responded.
Pot Pourri’s parking lot was almost full; that was a good sight for me. They deserved the continued success. I had never met harder working or kinder people, they always had different cultural themes from all over the world every week and their food was to die for, Looks like today we’re going to Mexico. My mouth was watering just thinking about it, I absolutely loved their burritos.
Lakshya found a space next to my car and parked, and then we met each other on the sidewalk. He looked up at the place. I forgot, this probably wasn’t his style; he was more of the quiet café type, or at least he used to be. Oh well, if he wanted to talk to me, he was going to have to do it on my turf.
“I hope you like Mexican.” I knew he did, but I was treating him as if I didn’t know him it all. I could tell it bothered him, but I wasn’t sure why.
He looked at me oddly. “Of course,” he replied.
So I led the way to the entrance. There was a bit of awkwardness when we got to the door; we both reached for the door at the same time and our hands touched. Naturally, I backed off and let him open it. I had no problem with men opening my door, and normally I just assumed they would, but I was making no assumptions with Lakshya, now or ever.
“Um … Thank you.”
He smiled. “You’re welcome.”
As soon as we walked in, we were hit with the sound of their live band. I had forgotten Fridays were their live band & dance night. I looked at Lakshya, and I could tell it made him a little uncomfortable. Perfect, I thought. We didn’t even make it to a waiter for a table before Preeta accosted me.
“Ragini!” she said as she squeezed me to death. She looked me over like a fine Mexican momma. “Eres Hermosa.”
Another reason to love this place, it was a great self-esteem booster. “Gracias. So we’re Mexican tonight, are we?”
“Sí somos” She kissed my cheek and then she noticed I brought company. “And who is this, Hermosa?”
I wanted to say, “Don’t get your hopes up.” She was constantly trying to set me up.
“Preeta, this is Lakshya. He’s the new Marketing Director at Rumtek.”
She looked at me with sadness in her eyes. I probably shouldn’t have told anyone I was hoping to fill that position; I could have done without the pity stares.
Thankfully, Lakshya took his cue and shook her hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
She eyed him carefully. “You should know Ragini is very talented.” She grinned at me. I shook my head at her and smiled back.
Lakshya also looked at me. “I’ve heard that a lot today.” He sounded sincere, but there seemed to be a hint of annoyance mixed in.
On that note, Preeta showed us to a private table toward the back. It was the furthest away from the band. I could tell that pleased Lakshya. She took our drink order and then kissed my cheek before she left to fill it.
Lakshya kept staring my way.
“Do you want to know what’s good here?” I asked.
He grinned. “Sure, but I was also wondering, does everyone in Mumbai know you and love you?”
I laughed. “I think you’ve met most of my inner circle today.”
“Yes, and it’s been painful. I feel I may be the most hated man in Mumbai at the moment,” he responded ruefully.
I couldn’t help but grin and be delighted about that, but I kept my sarcastic comments to myself. It sounded like he’d had enough for the day. I may not have liked him, but I wasn’t one to pour vinegar in open wounds, at least not all at once.
He leaned forward ever so slightly. “So, Ragini, I think we may have gotten off on the wrong foot today. I’d like to start over if we could.”
“You think?” I responded.
He smiled at me and sat back. “How about this, let’s not discuss business for now.”
“Then whatever do we have to talk about?”
“Well, we haven’t seen each other in almost thirteen years.”
I took a chip from the bowl and dipped it in their homemade salsa all while wickedly grinning. “Really? Has it been that long? I guess time flies when you’re having fun.”
Yeah, he didn’t know what to do with me by the concerted look on his handsome face. Of course I knew how long it had been since I had last seen him. Unfortunately, that memory was forever etched on my heart and time-stamped in my brain, but he didn’t need to know that.
“I barely recognized you today when I first saw you.”
I raised my eyebrow at him and practically choked on my chip. “Well, ok. Most men would lie and say, ‘The years have been good to you, Ragini. You look great.’ But I guess honesty is the best policy.”
His face turned red.
I just picked up my menu and began to read it even though I had it memorized and knew what I would order. I had never had anyone point blank tell me I was unattractive and unrecognizable. And I’ll admit it stung coming from someone that used to call me beautiful on a regular basis.
He cleared his throat. “Ragini, I didn’t mean to imply that you are anything but Hermosa?”
I looked up from my menu. “Do you even know what that means?”
He smirked. “Your dance classes have definitely paid off.”
“Really, Ragini, I just meant to say you look grown up now.”
I rolled my eyes at him. “Now you sound like my dad.”
His eyes sparkled with delight at my response. “I’ve heard that somewhere before.”
I was supposed to be pretending like I didn’t remember a thing from our relationship. Darn it!
“How is your dad?” he said, still grinning like a fool.
I completely set down my menu and placed my hands in my lap. “He passed away six years ago.”
That wiped the grin right off his face.
“Ragini, I had no idea. I’m sorry.”
I shrugged my shoulders. “How would you have known?”
“I just keep screwing up here, don’t I?” he asked.
I almost felt bad for him, so I threw him a bone. “Tell me how your family is.”
I was honestly very interested in his answer. I had adored his parents and sister. His parents lived in the heart of the city and were into agricultural business owning huge farms just outside of Delhi. I was so surprised the first time I met them. They were so different from Lakshya. I couldn’t imagine Lakshya growing up in such an easy-going family, but he had. I really enjoyed the time we spent with them, but Lakshya, at the time, was very busy, and I always kind of got the feeling that he didn’t want to be like them. I don’t think he was embarrassed of his parents. They were salt-of-the-earth kind of people, but I think he just always wanted more in life. Being into agricultural business was profitable but it was also back-breaking, but I had never met happier people.
His sister, Kiran, and I really hit it off too. I met her during the one and only Holi that I had spent with them. She was a year junior to me. We had actually kept in touch for a while after Lakshya broke up with me. She thought he was the biggest idiot ever for ending our relationship. I think she had even tried to talk some sense into him, but once Lakshya made his mind up, that was it. Over the years, I had thought about her and wished we had remained friends. She was even more sarcastic and feisty than me; we were quite the pair.
He looked at me thoughtfully. I hoped they were all still alive.
“They’re doing well. My parents still work too hard.”
I smiled at the news. I couldn’t imagine them being any other way.
“Kiran’s married now and lives in Bangalore. She and her husband Karan have a two-year-old son named Sahil.”
I grinned wider at that news. “That’s wonderful. I’m happy for her.”
“She wanted me to tell you hi and that she would love to catch up with you,” he nervously replied.
That was a pleasant surprise for me. “I’d like that,” I said quietly. But then I thought it was weird he would have talked to his sister about me.
Thankfully, by that time Preeta returned with our drinks and was ready to take our order. “Are you having your usual tonight, Hermosa?”
“Yes, ma’am,” I responded as I handed her back the menu with my design work on it.
Lakshya hadn’t even cracked open his menu. “I’ll just have what the lady is having.”
That was weird and a very un-Lakshya like thing to do. Anytime we had ever been out to eat, which wasn’t often, he was picky about what he ordered, and he could ask lots of questions of the server. He had liked to cook for me, and of course that was more cost efficient for us as college students. I think he practically fed me for an entire semester, at least for dinner. I smiled at the old memory.
“What are you smiling about?” he inquired.
I quickly put on my I have no idea what you’re talking about look. He would not be getting access to my thoughts, especially any which placed him in a fond light. That was dangerous territory, and I needed to tread lightly there, or better yet, stay away completely. Honestly, I thought I had. We needed to switch gears ASAP.
“So, tell me more about your first day at the office.” I grinned evilly.
We needed to get off the personal train. He raised his eyebrow at me and thought for a moment. I could see the wheels spinning beyond those dark eyes of his.
“We’ll get there.”
I didn’t like him taking control of the conversation direction. Hmm …, “Then what do you want to talk about?”
Oddly, he acted like he was reaching out to touch my hand, but he stopped. That was a good thing, too, if he wanted to keep it.
“Ragini, it’s been a long time. Tell me about you.”
“Didn’t you read my personnel file today?”
“Come on, Ragini.”
“Fine, what do you want to know?”
He knew he was getting on my nerves, and he seemed to take pleasure in it as he sat back and surveyed me.
“Tell me about Ahmedabad.”
So he had read my file. I wasn’t surprised. I was only surprised that he even cared.
“I received my MBA at IIM – A around seven years ago.”
He held his hand out waiting for me to elaborate. “And …?”
Fine, he was getting my life story in a nutshell. “I graduated top of my class. I started working for Rumtek Media. I’ve been the Regional Manager for three years until today. “
He ruefully smiled, but that didn’t stop me from giving him the very watered downed history of my life after him. “When I’m not working, I’m either with my sister and her family or volunteering or dancing, among other activities. Oh, and I have a cat named Tom. Is that enough for you?”
He grinned. “How’s Shikha?”
I was taken aback that he remembered her name. It’s not like they’d ever met. “She’s perfect. She and Vidyut just celebrated their fifteenth wedding anniversary, and they have two daughters. Arushi’s ten and Arika’s seven.”
“I thought you didn’t like cats.”
“Yeah, well, turns out I do.”
I didn’t really, except for Tom. My sister bought him for me on my 28th birthday, and she said she would be buying me a new one every five years unless I got married. She was setting me up to be a spinster cat lady. At first, I told her to take him back, but he was just so dang cute, I couldn’t help but love him. But I warned her, no more. I didn’t care if I never got married.
“Husband? Kids?” He just about laughed.
“Really? Don’t you think that would be the first thing I would have mentioned?”
That made him really laugh. What was up with him?
I folded my arms. “Are we done now?”
“Don’t you want to know about me?”
“What more do I need to know?”
A playful grin spread across his face. “You’re not curious at all about your new boss?”
“You’re not my boss.”
I was a little curious, but heck, I could google him. And believe me, I would.
The playful grin still danced across his face. “I forgot. I’m getting ahead of myself.”
“Way,” I responded.
“So, what’s it going to take to win you back?”
I looked at him strangely. That was a very odd way of putting it.
He got a tinge red. “What can I do so you’ll rescind your resignation?” he corrected himself.
“Quit,” I said, hopefully.
His countenance dropped some. “You can take that off the table.”
“A girl can try.”
“Ragini, I don’t know if you remember or not, but we used to work well together. And I think if you gave this a chance, we could do great things for Rumtek.”
Before I could respond, Naveen brought our smothered burritos out to us. He greeted me with a kiss on the cheek too. I figured I should be polite and make introductions.
“Naveen, this is the new Marketing Director for Rumtek, Lakshya Maheshwari.”
Those words tasted like one hundred year old vinegar in my mouth. It was so bad it left an aftertaste. Naveen also gave me a look of great pity before responding to Lakshya’s handshake. He turned his attention quickly back to me. “You can’t leave without dancing with me tonight, Bonita.”
“Secretly taking Spanish classes, are we?” I said with a quizzical smile
“Now, is there something you can’t predict about us?” Naveen said with a laugh “Don’t forget to save me a dance” he said as he left.
Now that was something to smile about. Naveen and Preeta had been teaching me how to salsa. It was lot of fun. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”
“So, you salsa too?” Lakshya asked after Naveen left.
“I see you still enjoy life and learning new things.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Can you please try this?” he practically begged.
I raised my eyebrow at him. “Lakshya, why are you here?”
He responded by taking a large bite of food and chewing very slowly. He didn’t verbally communicate, but his eyes danced with delight. Since he was in no hurry, I began to eat. I was starving, and the food smelled way too good to let it sit untouched any longer. Besides, I couldn’t stand looking into those warm chocolate eyes; it brought back too many memories. We ate in silence for several minutes, but there was a serious staring contest going on between us. The whole time I wondered why he was avoiding answering me. It was a simple question really.
“The food is excellent,” he finally said.
“Tell me something I don’t know. Like why you’re here?”
He thought for a moment more. “I’m here to find … success.”
“Because selling your own company for Crores wasn’t enough?”
He took a deep breath. “Ragini, the digital ad software you’ve helped develop is a very unique concept, and I believe, with the right feature enhancements and marketing, it could put Rumtek Media on the map as the leader in digital marketing software.”
“I still don’t get it,” I said exasperated. “You could have just started something on your own again.”
“I like a challenge, and this is a unique challenge.”
The way he said that and looked at me, I couldn’t tell if he was just talking about my product. Ok, it wasn’t just mine. It was my idea, but it was Girish, our software developer, who made it into reality. I was just the architect and the one who made it look pretty after Girish worked his magic.
“Fine, then why didn’t you tell Anirudh you knew me?”
He smirked. “Why does that matter to you?”
Oh, the nerve of him. I grabbed my bag and retrieved some cash and threw it on the table. It would more than cover my half of the meal.
His eyes widened and he jumped up. He hesitated, but he gently reached for my arm. “Please don’t go.”
“Why does it matter to you?” I threw back at him.
What was wrong with me? I wasn’t usually this snotty. He definitely brought out the worst in me. He didn’t used too. In fact, he used to bring out the best in me. But in my defence, I cried for months over him once upon a time, and now he’d taken my job.
He looked down at me. I had forgotten how tall he was, or how short I was. I had also forgotten how much I loved the way his eyes darkened the closer I got to them and how good he smelled.
“I’m sorry. Please sit down,” he implored.
He let go of me and watched me as I slowly sat back down. He picked up my money and handed it back to me. “I insist on paying for dinner.”
“I can’t let you do that.”
“Why do you have to be so obstinate?”
“I don’t need your charity. I may not be a multi-millionaire, but I’ve done well for myself, and I’ll be fine without this job.”
He rubbed his chin. “Ragini, this isn’t charity. I know you’ve done well for yourself. Look at it like two old friends catching up.”
“Lakshya, if that’s the case, you’re the worst friend I’ve ever had,” I tried to say it kindly.
He lowered his eyes. “I suppose I deserve that.” But then he sat up taller and all business-like. “Ragini, professionally speaking, today is going down as one of the most unpleasant of my career. I apologize for not being as forthcoming as I should have been with Anirudh. I didn’t realize the personal and professional relationship that existed between the two of you. Let’s just say he wasn’t very impressed when I told him how I knew you and that I hadn’t disclosed it.”
I tried not to smile.
“Honestly, I think if there wasn’t an iron clad contract in place, he may have fired me today. I’ve never seen anyone so upset about losing an employee, and then there was the executive secretary.”
“I think the word you’re looking for is admin assistant, or you could just call her Akriti. She hates to be called a secretary.”
“Thanks for the heads up, but she already detests me.”
Ok. I couldn’t help but smile.
He raised his eyebrow at me. “So, I’m sure you’re going to assume that I only want you to come back to make my life easier, but honestly Ragini, I would be a fool to let such a talented employee go. I know what you bring to the table. I’ve been very impressed. So name your terms.” After his grovelling, or as close as he ever came to grovelling, he sat back against the seat and looked at me like he was daring me.
As I thought about what to say and do, Naveen came and brought our bill. He handed it to Lakshya. I pushed my money back over to him.
I reluctantly took it back.
“Are you ready to dance?” Naveen asked. I grabbed my bag and scooted out of the table. “Yes.” I looked at Lakshya again. “Thank you for dinner.”
“Ragini, will you come back?”
I took another moment to look at him. “I need the weekend to think about it.”
“I understand, but I hope you’ll change your mind.”