“Ya mere ALLAH!” Almas covered her ears when fourteen years Dua shot ten bullets straight to her target. Xian nodded approvingly when she looked towards him with a bright smile. He was, after all, her teacher and before anyone, she wanted him to be proud of her. “Dua!” She removed her ear protectors and turned to her nanna with a Cheshire grin. Dua could literally see smoke coming out of her ears.
“Naannaa!” Almas groaned in annoyance when Dua pounced on her. “Did you see?” Xian nodded to Feroze and Ibtesam in respect before leaving them to their time. “Be proud.” Her parents and Shahs chuckled watching her annoy the daylights out of her grandmother.
“You get away from me. Don’t call me nanna when you don’t listen to me at all.” Almas chided Dua who just scrunched her face and skipped to Ammara and Haider. These family gatherings were what kids enjoyed the most. But Almas always ruined them with her mouth whenever she decided to join. “Don’t laugh at her behavior. You are only encouraging her Feroze. This is not the way girls behave. Instead of teaching her proper etiquette, you are teaching her how to hold a gun.”
“There she goes again” Dua muttered with an eye roll. It was always the same. Almas didn’t like the way Dua behaved and these discussions never led to anything good. Ever. It was either her clothes, the way she walked, talked, ate or breathed. She found problem with everything and raised an issue. “Why can’t she leave us alone?”
“Behave Dua” Ammara scolded to which young Dua just scoffed. “Hadi! You say something.”
“I am not coming in between this nonsense. And Dua is right. Almas-Bi is too-” Haider dropped his sentence upon seeing the warning in Ammara’s eyes.
“Old?” Dua suggested. “Brat?”
“Dua!” Haider chuckled, high-fiving Dua over Ammara’s head. “You two are too much sometimes.”
“You should join us too at times.” Ammara just shook her head and got up to go to her fuming grandma. “What do you say we make nanna target next time?”
“Shut up!” Haider chuckled ruffling her hair and they trudged behind Ammara. As expected, Almas was still thundering on their parents about how girls should be brought up.
“I don’t like the frankness of girls to that boy. And you let him have charge of their every matter.” Ammara and Dua looked at each other before turning to their parents. “How can you let him live under same roof as you? You have two young daughters-”
“Almas-Bi” Dar-jee intervened calmly. “Xian is family. He is just like an older brother to these children. If any, you don’t need to be wary of him.” Almas-Bi pursed her lips and turned to her daughter.
“I understand but I still find it inappropriate. What will people say if they found out?”
“People will say whatever” Ibtesam replied. “If we started bothering about the mouths running around us, we will ultimately invite doom to our doorsteps by our own hands.”
“Xian is my responsibility Amma.” Feroze closed the topic completely. “No further discussion needed on it.”
“Fine but do you think the way you are letting them do whatever they please, these two will be able to adjust in married life later?” Dua’s jaw hit the floor and she looked towards her sister who looked equally gobsmacked. “Safiya! It’s high time you speak up. It will only make you suffer later. Look at how they dress. This is preposterous. I told you to take them back-”
“Relax Amma” Feroze chuckled and hugged Dua and Ammara when they sat next to him on the armrest. “My daughters are perfect the way they are.” Dua smiled at her father proudly. “I’m not going to force them into anything which they don’t like. They don’t have to give up their dreams and wishes to fit in the so-called society.”
“No Amma.” Feroze interjected calmly. “My daughters are not my burden but strength. These two are equivalent to hundred sons for me. And I am sure” He looked at his daughters proudly.
“They are going to make me very proud one day.”
Dua shot five disks with precision the moment they were released in the air. “Increase their number and speed.” She reloaded her shotgun and took aim once again. “Pull!” The targets launched from the traps and the disks were shot once again without a miss.
“Aya Sato. That is her real name.” Dua moved to next position on the field. “Twenty-eight years old. She started working for the Intelligence at the age of fifteen. She went by the name of CrimsonFall in field. She has a record of 3875 kills and 1578 sniper hits.” Dua watched Xian over her shoulder before taking the next aim. “I tested her abilities myself. She is-” Xian stopped momentarily, “not a patient interrogator.”
“Isn’t that what you prefer?” Dua chuckled upon remembering her training days with him. How he made her want to give up at times with blood in her eyes. “No mercy at all.”
“What do you intend to do?” Always the stoic one. Dua took her aim at next position.
“There is no such thing as coincidence. It’s all pre-planning and thorough fabrication." Another eight hits. “Is my package ready? To be delivered where it belongs?”
“Yes.” Dua nodded and moved to her final position. “Who do you want to-”
“Send Aya.” Another round of precise shots. “I don’t trust her...Yet. Not the way she landed up that night. If what you say is true, she should have escaped long ago. Why stay and suffer?”
“Very well” Dua looked at him over her extended arm.
“Keep tabs on her moves. She could prove herself quite useful otherwise. And get it done as soon as possible. There is not much time left.” Xian gave her a curt nod. “What about Asfandyar Sherzai?”
“He left for Hong Kong that night. There is no news of his return to America. He might leave for Pakistan directly.” Dua just nodded while walking back to the table. She loaded her handgun and came back on the field.
“What does your instinct say?” Shot. “Should we let our guard down?” Another shot. She didn’t look at Xian when he left without answering the question. How typical of him to let things hang in the moment, only to pull hard later.
End result; death.
Dua took her aim once again and right when she was about to shoot, she felt the air shift. Goosebumps rose on her neck and arms upon feeling the danger that lurked around. Before she could fully grasp it, a hand guided its way to her elbow and lifted it up a little.
“You were off the line” His deep voice whispered near her ear from behind. “You would have missed.” Dua spun on her heels and took few steps away from Asfand. What the fuck? “Ms. Sahi” He smirked while watching the rapid rise and fall of her chest.
It was worth it.
Her expressions and reaction to his sudden approach was priceless. It turned out to be a pleasant surprise for Asfand. Just what he wanted right after coming back to America. He ought to reward Safan for choosing this place for their meeting and he was glad he didn’t cancel it. What a beautiful sight he got to feast on after starving on it for more than a week.
Asfand was in a bad mood all this time but the moment his eyes found his prey, his whole axis shifted. Asfand could always tell when she was around. It doesn’t matter whether he could see her or not. He just know it. The essence of her very core.
“How dare you?” Dua hissed lowly while removing her glasses. Her grip on the gun tightened when Asfand stepped closer to her. “Mr. Sherzai, I think you are highly mistaken regarding many things.”
“And what would that be?” Dua tensed further when Asfand stepped in her personal space. She held her breath because she didn’t want to inhale the same air as him. Not when it was getting tainted with the very presence of him. “Care to elaborate?” She had to crane her neck back to look up at him. And his constant smirk was telling her how much he was enjoying it. “I’m waiting Ms. Sa-”
“Don’t touch me” She swatted his hand away with her gun when it tried to reach for her face. “Don’t ever dare to touch me or-”
“Why? Will you stab me?” Dua watched his eyes turn cold in an instant. Her body became alert when Asfand leaned towards her face. There was hate. There was anger swimming in those green oceans of his eyes that were threatening to burn and drown her in them. “Tell me, where are you going to stab me?”
“Get away from me.” Asfand chuckled lowly at her hiss. “Mr. Sherzai! I won’t tolerate your ill behavior.”
“Why should I get away from you?” Dua ducked his hand that tried to reach for her face again. “In fact, I plan to get close to you. Much closer than” her eyes closed and heart started thundering in her chest when Asfand leaned towards her ear. “This.”
Asfand watched the shallow breaths escaping her plush lips. Her cheeks were turning red because of anger and the rise and fall of her chest increased in pace at his proximity. He groaned inaudibly when her scent invaded his senses, making his control hang by the brink.
Damn you for fucking me up like this.
His blood pounded loudly in his veins when Dua opened her eyes and glared at him. That anger and defiance in her hazel eyes, it was making him go crazy. It was fueling his desire more. Desire to have her. Destroy her. It was not just lust anymore.
It was retribution and vengeance.
Dua wanted to step away from Asfand but there was a pull that incarcerated her in the moment. There was hate and anger deep within but she was spazzed by the intensity of his eyes. This man had no filter to anything. Not his words and not his actions. He had no fear of the repercussions this moment of insanity could bring to him.
“You will regret this” Asfand growled lowly when her breath fanned his lips.
“I am already regretting it... Dua." The spell broke and both came back to the reality of their lives. Whatever held them in that moment, disappeared completely and rage roared once again. Million times stronger than before.
“Get away from me” Dua gave Asfand a hard shove back. “How dare you-”
“I told you not to challenge my dare, love. I warned you not to and now, you will have it coming.”
“Boss?” Asfand didn’t look away from Dua when Safan approached him. “They are here.” Safan looked between them in agitation. He could feel the tension rolling off of them. It was palpable. It was suffocating. How the fuck did they end up in one place? How fucked up their fate can be? He thought Asfand would forget about all that but he was so wrong. One could clearly see everything in his eyes. “Asfand?”
“I’m coming.” Safan didn’t want to but he had no choice. “Safan!” Asfand gritted lowly.
“Yes boss.” Safan turned on his heels and walked the way he came. God bless them both alone. It was not going to end in anything good. He just prayed someone showed up before things could go out of hand.
“I am used to take what is mine Dua." A shiver ran down her spine when Asfand said her name. “By hook or by crook. And I assure you, I won’t leave behind what was ought to be mine. From the very beginning.” Giving her one more glance, Asfand walked back with a smirk. He had to, for now. But not for longer.
You ran away once. You won’t be able to twice.
Dua’s hands shook while watching Asfand walk away from her.
“What’s your name?”
“Dua? My prayer?”
Red coated her vision and Dua unlocked the safety of her handgun. His? What was his? Nothing. Nothing belonged to him. Nothing will belong to him. Not when it was so easy to forsake everything. Dua aimed her gun at Asfand. I won’t let you live to do that.
“No” Haider obstructed her vision and lowered her gun. Once he made sure Asfand was out of sight, he released her hand. He could tell Dua had composed herself back in her shell because her eyes turned neutral.
“What brings you here?” Dua watched Haider choose a handgun. “Don’t you have better things to do on weekends now? Like spending some quality time with your son and wife?”
“Don’t give me that shit Dee” Haider flexed his arm and took the aim next to her target. “You were gone. You didn’t even stay for-” Dua shot eight bullets to her target and loaded another round. Haider knew it was on purpose. Her ways to deal with things were annoying him now. It was good Xian saw Safan upon leaving and told him to reach Dua. He was sure something was bound to happen. And the way she reacted just now, something definitely happened.
This was not what they bargained for when he agreed to stand by what she wanted to do. She thought he won’t come to know of the attack if they didn’t tell him. Haider was furious on Dua for keeping such big thing from him. He wanted to know why she did that. But the stubborn child didn’t.
“There was no need-”
“Now it’s all about needs? And stop, will you?” Haider pulled her hand back roughly and forced her to face him. “I am talking to you. Show some respect.”
“What’s your problem?” Dua roughly pulled her hand away. “Why can’t you mind your own business?”
“You are my business as well.”
“I am not” Dua interjected harshly. “I am not your business anymore Haider. You lost that right the day someone took her place in your life. So, don’t.” A wave of regret crossed Haider’s eyes and he looked away from her. The more he looked at Dua in this moment, the more he saw her. It brought nothing but his buried anger and hatred back to surface. “You chose a life and you moved on. Now live it and back off.” It hurt Dua to say such bitter words to him but it was for the best. “Don’t impose your happiness on me because I never imposed my pain on you and Dar-jee. It was your choice to forget. It is my choice to remember.”
“Hadi!” Dua raised her hand in surrender. “It’s pointless.”
“Enough Dua” Haider raised his voice in agitation. “Not again because I am done and sick of this already. What are you doing really? What do you think you are doing?”
“Amber could have gotten hurt. Your baby could have gotten hurt. Why? Because I chose a path laced with blood that is bound to spill.” Haider opened his mouth to counter but she stopped him again. “Don’t deny it.”
“You are not doing this alone.” Haider grabbed her shoulders firmly. “Not at my watch. Yes, I moved on. But that doesn’t mean old relations have been replaced.” He pulled her chin back when she looked away from the pain that was evident in his blue eyes. “It doesn’t mean I have forgotten. I can never. I might not have witnessed it with my own eyes but I have seen it in yours. And you have no fucking idea what I-”
“Hadi!” Dua stopped him before he could say anymore.
“Who attacked you?” She tried to break free but he held tight. “I asked something and you know I don’t like to repeat myself. Is it Asfandyar Sherzai?”
“No.” Haider dropped his hands off her shoulders and stood straight. Dua knew there will be no point in keeping things from Haider. If he was not doing anything on his own, it was only because he made a promise in return for a condition of his own. That she will not keep anything from him. “It was none of them. You can relax. They don’t know who I am yet.”
“Did Asfandyar do something?” Dua just shook her head. “Did he say anything-” She shook her head again. “Are you going to go back on your word Dee?”
“He didn’t do anything Hadi. He knows very well what territory he will be trespassing. And he has no proof. Not that he will care enough to dig out.” Haider didn’t bought her lie but didn’t push it any further. “Anyway! I’m sorry about that night. I shouldn’t have left like that. I just thought-”
“You think too much Dee and sometimes, that becomes the biggest problem.” Dua just nodded absentmindedly. “You are not going to ask it? His name?”
“What did you name him?” They both walked back to table and leaned against it side by side.
“Rayan. It means brilliant and bright.” Haider smiled at her warmly and Dua smiled at the sincerity it held. “I am a father Dee. I still don’t know how to feel about it.”
“It’s a beautiful name and you are going to be a great father.” Dua nudged his shoulder lightly. “Don’t worry.” Haider’s phone began to ring and he attended the call while watching Dee examine various firearms.
“Yes Dar-jee. I will let Dee know.” Dua looked at Haider in question at the mention of her name. “Yes. Okay. Yes. I will see you later.”
“What was that about?” Dua shot the question when Haider disconnected the call.
“Some friend of Dar-jee is coming from Pakistan. He wants us to be at main mansion when they come. Including you.”
“Is he someone we know?” Dua walked back with him.
“He didn’t say much and I don’t know that many people from there. We will see. You want me to drop you off?”
“No, I got my car. I need to go somewhere before heading home. When is he expected? This guest of Dar-jee?” Dua unlocked her car that was parked next to Haider’s. “I might need to reschedule.”
“I will let you know.” Haider opened his door. “Be careful Dee.”
“You be careful as well.” They got in their cars and drove off to their destinations.
“Mail me the details of it.” Dua shifted the gear, speeding up after overtaking the car ahead of her. “I will be there. Yes. Fine. Let me know.” She disconnected the call and watched the hues of day turn dark with the clouds that overtook the sky within seconds. There was going to be a heavy storm. She was adjusting the heat when her eyes focused on the rear-view mirror.
And the cars that were tailing her.
“Xian? I’m at I-78 right now.” She spoke through her watch. “I have four cars behind me. Find out who they are.” Dee increased the speed of her car while snaking through other vehicles and watched them do the same. They were trying to take over her from both sides and that was what she needed to avoid at any cost. She needed to reach the toll bridge.
Dua steered her car to right when one of them tried to come in front. She knew there was no other way left for her to escape them right now. So, when the bridge came in her line of vision, she stepped on the gas.
“In your dreams” Dua muttered spitefully and steered the car towards the crash barriers.
“Oh shit!” Their cars came to an abrupt halt upon the turn of event and eight black masked men rushed out in hurry. They watched her car rolling over the bridge thrice before falling into the river. Many cars stopped and people rushed out calling helpline. “We are doomed. We are fucking doomed. We were supposed to catch her alive.” They looked at each other in panic when their phone began to ring.
“Pick the fucking phone or he will kill us.” The one holding the device gulped loudly before putting it against his ear.
“We got a problem boss.”
“Fuck!” Asfand threw his phone against the wall and kicked his chair away. Safan watched him flip the table and break every breakable thing in his office while muttering profanities. His rage was all over the place and it was only going to get worse from here. This was what Safan dreaded the most. Him losing every fucking rationality to his cosmic obsession.
“Mine” A bullet flew by Safan’s head and hit the door behind him. “She is only mine. She will be mine and no one can fucking stop it from happening.” Asfand smashed his fist in the glass case behind him. “You cannot hide from me. You cannot run away from me. No one can come between us. I won’t let anyone come between us.”
“Asfand!” His craziness rendered Safan speechless. “Asfand! Fucking get in your senses.”
“No Safan” he turned to him with a vicious sneer. “The fun is only beginning. It will only get better from here. The hunt will get more thrilling because I am going to step in this game. What did Jahangir Shah said? Kismet.” He chuckled darkly and watched the bloody mess which was his arm. “He was right. We cannot outwit what is predestined. An unanswered prayer came back to me Safan and this time, I won’t let it go just like that.” Asfand smashed his fist on the glass once again, shattering it completely by his feet and his rage roared once again within the confines of four walls.