“Don’t disappoint me Sharlene” Dua refused the chauffeur and got in the driver’s seat. Her phone buzzed again and she groaned inaudibly. She was regretting her decision right now. It could prove a serious hindrance in future.
“I’m on my way Hadi.” Twentieth call. It was twentieth call in last ten minutes. I need to have a word with Sarim. “What’s the big deal?” She followed the route on her GPS around ICT (Islamabad Capital Territory). “No. Seriously! I’m going to practically live with them in a month.” Shah’s estate was in Saidpur and she was glad about having their own residence. She was not in the mood of living in same house with Sarim. Not yet.
“It’s not America Dee. Here, things don’t work the ways we are used to. You might have to bend at certain points whether you like it or not.” Haider watched Amber fussing over the engagement preparations in the living. He was amazed by the energy she possessed to tackle everything within such short period. “You can get some tips from Amber. It was amazing how she handled your mother-in-law.”
“No need.” Dua increased the speed on the snake like roads. The path looked dangerous and Dua wanted to test the limits of it. “Well! Whatever. Sarim knew and still chose to propose me. They either accept me for who I am or we can call it off. I don’t do negotiations.” She was amazed by the beauty around her. The evergreen mountains with clear blue sky. So, this is their homeland?
“How do you plan to stay in Pakistan otherwise?” her grip on the wheel tightened. “Grandson of retired Field Marshal and son of martyred, Major Raza Chaudhary. He can prove himself to be an excellent shield and scapegoat, no? After all, he is a Major General himself.” Haider chuckled lowly when Dua stayed mum. “You are such a heartless woman.”
“I’ll see you soon” She removed the earpiece and threw it on the seat in anger. Like it is easy for me. She knew her Dar-jee wouldn’t have let her come in any other circumstance and she needed to be in Pakistan for what she needed to do with the murderers of her family.
Justice will be served and she will be judge and executioner of it.
“Shit” Dua steered the wheel to left when a car came from opposite direction suddenly. She looked at the pit of death below. Her car was just one stroke away from falling into it. Had she not pressed the breaks on time, she would have been lying there somewhere with the remains of her car. What idiot? He didn’t know he was coming in wrong lane and at wrong speed?
Her eyes went to the car standing diagonal to hers. She lowered her window and watched the black expensive car with a frown. Its windows were tinted like hers. An unsettling feeling rose within her when the glass began to lower and she came face to face with the last person she wanted to meet.
“Will you look at that?” Asfand mused upon her expressions with a dangerous smirk and stepped out of his car. Her hands gripped the wheel tightly when Asfand came by her side and leaned on her door. His face was few inches apart from hers and his green bore deep within her hazel ones. “What a pleasant surprise.” Dozen cars poured on his side and his men stepped out, with guns. Pointed towards her.
“Wow!” Her mocking tone put an angry dent between Asfand’s brows. “You mind?” Asfand stood up straight when Dua got out of her car. His eyes were hooked on her every move like a hawk. It unnerved Asfand. Her relaxed behavior. “Is this how you usually greet guests? Creative.” She didn’t blink when Asfand pressed his gun to her forehead.
“Don’t flap your wings wide love." He unlocked the safety and stepped closer to her. “You never know when they will end up crippled to the ground.”
“Careful!” She intervened calmly. “Sometimes the hand that reach for the wings end up hurting itself.” A smirk stretched on her rose-colored lips when dozen more cars screeched to a stop behind her. Her men hurried out and aimed their guns at his.
The tables were evened out.
They all were hand-picked and trained by Xian. And Dua felt satisfied about them in every way.
“You need to be more prudent in your hunt.” She removed his gun from her forehead confidently. If he thought she came unprepared, he was so wrong. “Since you gave me such a warm welcome, I would like to return the favor.”
Asfand watched her reach for the dash of her car and pull out something. His blood boiled with unadulterated rage when Dua extended the silver black envelope towards him with a poisonous smile. He didn’t need to know what it held. But she could dream on it. He will let her dream on it. For as long as she wanted.
She was his and no fucking engagement could change it.
“Highly appreciated...” Asfand took the card from her with a smirk, letting his fingers graze hers while doing so. ”Dua." He stepped away and watched her fuming form get in the car with amusing eyes.
“Tell your men to clear the way Mr. Sherzai. I don’t like to run people over.” Asfand signaled with a finger and the path was cleared for her.
“I will be there to see the man you are going to marry.” Dua threw him one acidic glare and sped away, her men following her close behind. “Leave” he spat at his men. “All of you.” Asfand was fuming inside but anger was not what he needed right now.
“I will be there Dua. You can count on it.”
Amber was adjusting dupatta on Dua’s head when Haider entered the room. “She is looking beautiful, isn’t she?” Amber helped Dua up with a bright smile. A genuine smile crept to his lips seeing his little sister in a blue eastern dress. She was looking very beautiful and he just couldn’t believe how grown-up she already was.
“Where is my brute little brat?” Dua faced Haider when he came behind her. They didn’t say anything but pain was evident in their eyes.
“I will leave you two but don’t take too long.” Amber carried Rayan out of the room. Haider turned once the door closed and watched Dua silently.
“Do I look bad?” Haider just shook his head and fixed her maang-tikka before placing his hand on her head.
“You look anything but bad.” She smiled a little when he cupped her face. Dua kept everything simple in every way but she looked anything but ordinary. “I have mix feelings while watching you like this. Is this a brother thing?”
“I won’t know” her voice shook a little. “Hadi! Am I doing something wrong? I don’t know. I just-”
“Dua!” Haider held her shoulders firmly. “Don’t look back. Not now. Do you hear me?” She watched him with pursed lips. “Some wounds can be healed and you have to let them. Either yourself or by someone else.”
“Haider?” Both turned when Amber came back. “It’s time.”
Haider helped Dua out of the car when they reached the venue. She looked at the grand set up while walking inside. They went overboard in everything even when she told them not to. But Dua cannot blame them. Sarim was an only child. It was only her who bore bitterness and pain towards such auspicious moment.
So, all she could manage to do was smile if someone greeted her.
Xian was waiting for them by the entrance. His eyes softened upon the sight of her and an ever so small smile appeared on his lips that no one could notice. At least, she was going to have something positive in her life. He just prayed this positivity could save her from her self-destructive plans.
“All set?” Xian nodded. The doors opened to a hexagonal dome which lit up further when Dua made her appearance. All heads turned and many hushed murmurs passed around.
“Am I supposed to feel happy that they are talking about me?” She murmured to Haider while smiling at her Dar-jee. He was standing beside Dilawar Chaudhary and his family. She could tell how happy he was and it gave her a prickly feeling. She was lying to him in a way and she doesn’t even want to know how much it was going to hurt him later. Maybe, he will forgive her or maybe not.
There was nothing she could do about it right now.
“Let them be.” Haider looked at her with a smile. “These people are nothing but background noise. All you need to do is focus ahead.” They stopped next to their families and Dua turned to Jahangir.
“Mera bacha” he kissed her forehead affectionately. “So beautiful, MashaAllah. May Allah bless you always.” He turned towards Sarim. “Keep her happy always. Don’t ever hurt her in any way.”
“I won’t” Sarim replied with a smile. “Ever.” Haider looked at him amused. The guy hadn’t blinked even once. He looked too smitten by Dua. He was a goner.
“MashaAllah!” Dua forced a smile when Umaira cupped her face. “So beautiful you are. I’m so happy my Sarim found a snow-fairy.” She smiled at her son who looked on cloud nine. “We should start the ceremony.”
“We should” Jahangir nodded at Dilawar. Sarim extended his hand for Dua. His evergreen smile was permanently etched to his face. Dua wondered how his cheeks were still in place. With the way he was smiling, they should fall by now.
“Dua?” She nodded at Jahangir and placed her hand in his waiting one. “Umaira! Bring the rings-”
“What’s the hurry?” All of them turned except Dua when they entered the venue. Five of them. Haider signaled Xian to stand-by on Jahangir’s orders. “Not everyone has arrived yet” Ismael stopped beside Jahangir Shah. “We know we are not on good terms but-” Jahangir grabbed his cane firmly when Ismael turned with a wicked smile.
“Congratulations” Behroze intervened before Ismael could spout anymore nonsense. “We just wanted to give our blessing to the young couple.”
“We are your business partners after all” Azfar stepped next to Ismael and looked at Dua. “And we would like to see your future daughter-in-law as well.” Amber and Umaira looked towards their males in question. But all they received in answers were clenched fists, locked jaws, eyes full of wrath and their guards suddenly standing on their respective sides.
“Haider?” Amber grabbed his arm. “What is going on? Who are these people?” Haider just grabbed her hand and glared towards the five unannounced intruders.
“No one good. That’s all.” He murmured spitefully. “We should proceed with the ceremony Dar-jee.” They turned to him simultaneously. “Rest can wait.”
“Of course” Dilawar intervened calmly. “Sarim!” Sarim guided Dua to her seat beside him. “Umaira! Amber beta! Bring the rings.” Dua watched Sarim’s cousins gush around them with smiles and giggles. But she couldn’t feel at ease. Not when those faces were before her.
“Are you okay?” Dua nodded at Sarim and looked at five men from her periphery. They had their eyes glued on her. As expected. But she was seeing red and nothing else. All those painful memories came rushing back the moment these five bastards entered through those doors.
Blood of her father. Pain of her mother. Screams of her sister.
They will pay for it. For everything.
“Sarim!” Umaira passed the ring to her son with a smile. Dua fisted her hands in her lap and watched his extended hand. For her.
Why isn’t this feeling right?
“Dua? What’s wrong bacha?” She watched Jahangir silently and then looked at Haider who nodded with a smile. On his silent encouragement, Dua placed her hand in Sarim’s.
And right on cue, Asfand entered with Safan.
“Asfand!” Safan whispered cautiously when he saw his murderous expressions. It was bad. Letting him come. He had no idea Ismael and rest will be here as well. He knew it was going to be inevitable. They still had their doubts about D. Sahi. She might have changed over time but she couldn’t hide who she was. And if Asfand reacted right now, it was game over. For them.
“Don’t create a scene.” His fists balled upon watching Sarim hold her hand. Safan gripped his arm when he sensed Asfand reaching for his gun. “They are here.”
“I don’t fucking care” Asfand spat through gritted teeth. How dare that bastard touch what was his? She was his Dua. His prayer and no way in fucking hell was he going to let anyone take her.
“Don’t be rash” Safan held him back. “Don’t make an enemy out of Dilawar Chaudhary. Last thing you want is army on your back. Just bear with it for now. It’s just a fucking engagement.” Nothing Safan said was having any effect on Asfand. He was on the brink of losing his sanity the longer he watched that fucker hold Dua close.
She was looking ethereally beautiful in eastern avatar and his hot blood pounded loudly just by watching her from head to toe. That color and clothes brought out her real beauty. Just like he imagined. Colors were made for her. Asfand just wanted to grab her in the moment and disappear. He wanted her all for himself until his obsession and hunger was satiated. The beast within him was turning wilder the more his eyes feasted on her. And Asfand had no idea how long he could rein it in.
Dua got a really prickly feeling suddenly. Her eyes unconsciously wandered around and stopped on Asfand at the exact moment Sarim slipped the ring on her finger. She saw the angry tick near his jaw and wrath in his green eyes.
A dangerous promise was conveyed silently and there was no backing down from fulfilling it.
“Dua?” Haider nudged her shoulder. “What?” he looked towards her source of distress and it didn’t take long for his anger to flare. “What is he doing here?”
“What?” Sarim stood up abruptly. “Who invited him?” Asfand smirked when his childish outburst caught everyone’s attention. All eyes were on them but his eyes were on Dua as he leisurely made his way towards them. “What-”
“Congratulations!” Asfand looked from Jahangir to Haider and finally focused his attention back on his beautiful obsession. “Ms. Sahi” he watched those old geezers from his periphery who now had their undivided attention on them. “Since you invited me so sincerely, I stopped by to drop my regards.”
“Thank you” Dua replied calmly. “Your time is highly appreciated Mr. Sherzai” Asfand just smirked at her stoic expressions.
It won’t be easy. Asfand mused darkly. To break you but that will be the most fun part of this conquest.
Dua shook her head at Xian. Not now. She won’t let this man ruin her plans. At any cost. Even if it meant to bear with him, she will but she won’t let him hinder her in any way.
“Fine choice” Asfand looked towards Sarim mockingly. “I hope you... never mind.” His smirk broadened when Sarim fumed in silence. What does he know? Nothing. Asfand knew how pleasurable it was going to be. To see that torment on his arrogant face when he will take Dua away. Right before his eyes.
“Sarim!” Dilawar grabbed his shoulder and shot him a warning glare when he made an attempt to step towards Asfand.
“Hoping the best for you Ms. Sahi” Asfand shoved one hand in the pocket of his black slacks. “Let’s go” Giving one last glance towards the couple, he turned on his heels with clenched jaw and left just like he came.
“Why did you invite him?” Sarim inquired in agitation. “How do you even know that man? Just stay away from him Dua. He is dangerous.” But her eyes were glued to his retrieving broad back, clad in expensive black suit jacket. Her heart was pounding wildly in her rib-cage. Dua wasn’t expecting Asfandyar to come at all. She just gave that invite to spite him. She never thought her move could backfire like this.
“Care to explain” Haider muttered near her ear. “Why would you invite death to your door?” Dua glanced at him in silence before looking towards Xian. Checking his watch once, he gave her a curt nod.
“You worry too much Hadi” She took the ring from him with a smile that didn’t fool Haider. She was looking towards Ismael but before Haider could decipher the meaning behind it, she turned to Sarim.
Welcome to hell.
“Asfand!” Safan exclaimed when he smashed his fist in the mirror once they stepped out in the empty hallways. Asfand looked inside through mashrabi and his heart thundered with rage when Dua slid the ring on Sarim’s finger. A small smile appeared on her rosy lips. And that smile proved itself to be poison for Asfand’s black soul.
“She is mine Safan. I won’t let anyone else have her.”
“Asfand!” Safan yelled after him when he stormed away in anger. “Fuck!” He was about to follow him when his phone buzzed. His brows furrowed when he saw the i.d. Why is he calling me? “Yes-What? Are you sure? Don’t do anything and wait for Sardar’s call.” Jackpot. Safan looked inside with a smirk and rushed after Asfand.
Guess your Dua really brought good luck for you boss.
“Did you see?” They all turned to Azfar when Asfand left. “We were fooled by them. I mean, just look at her. How couldn’t we see she was using her mother’s surname all this time. We should have known. She was alive all this time.”
“You are thinking too much into it.” Azfar scoffed when Yusuf interjected. “It’s just you and your fear of Jahangir Shah.”
“Do you even know what this means? We need to tell Afroz.” The four of them shook their heads at his persistence. “He needs to know and why do you think Asfand came here. This means trouble for us if she reopened those cases.”
“You need to breathe Azfar” Ismael stood up and fixed his suit. “She would have done already. If any, I think she doesn’t even remember anything. She didn’t recognize us. Maybe her trauma was too much.”
“You are saying this?” Ismael didn’t answer when Azfar spat in anger. “I see what is going in that head of yours but I am warning you, Afroz will not sit by what you intend to do.”
“We will see” And he made his way towards the couple. Lucky for him, Sarim got up in the exact moment and left.
“Ms. Sahi” Dua was surrounded by Sarim’s cousins when Ismael approached her. “May I have a moment?” The girls rushed away and Dua looked up when he stood to her left instead of sitting on the lush chair. A clear sign of his arrogance. “Many congratulations to you. I suppose this is the first time we are meeting? But you look oddly familiar to me.”
“This face is all over media. It is nothing new if you felt familiar about it.” Dua clenched her fist when he chuckled. No one approached them but everyone was keeping close eye on every move being made.
He was trying to dig dirt that will only soil his clothes.
“I am Ismael Malik. It’s a pleasure to meet you Ms. Sahi.” Her smile was anything but friendly but he failed to notice it in his greed. “I am a businessman myself and successful one. You might have heard of Globaviations?” His tone turned suggestive but Dua gave no response to it. “If I am correct, you are in close relation with Shahs? Then you must know who I am.” But his inquisition couldn’t get one desired response out of her. “I would like to-”
“Chief?” Everyone turned when army officers poured in the ceremonial hall. Sarim rushed forward to receive his head and rest followed suit. “Is everything okay?”
“We will talk later Sarim but first” his chief came towards Ismael. His companions stood up as well when four army officers surrounded him. “Ismael Malik. We have restraining orders against you from federal bureau. You are under arrest of Pakistan Army for trespassing the borders, violating the territories on south coast and illegal weapon trade with Russian cartel.”
“What?” Ismael finally snapped out of his stupor when two officers seized him. “This is preposterous. Leave me this instance.” Ismael roared. “I didn’t do anything of the sort.” He turned to his companions who refused to meet his eyes when he was being dragged away.
“Dilawar!” he screamed over his shoulder. “You tell them to leave me thi-” His words got caught in his throat when he saw Dua. That fire in her eyes. Of hatred and raging wrath. “Azfar. Behroze. Fucking do something.” But all his protests were turned to deaf ear.
“I’m sorry for this unpleasant interruption Sir but we got orders for Ismael’s Malik immediate arrest.” Dilawar nodded silently.
“But how?” Sarim looked confused. “We couldn’t get any intel on his activities. Then how-”
“We don’t know about that” His chief clapped his shoulder firmly. “We were tipped from an anonymous IP address. It hacked our system for 0.6 seconds. When the system rebooted, the coordination of his next consignment were on our charts. And you know what’s even more interesting?” his chief swept one look around. “That tipper turned out to be a bug when we deciphered the codes.”
“Now is not the time for all this Sarim.” Dilawar patted his back firmly and turned to his superior. “Let us know.”
“Yes Sir and congratulations. We highly apologize for the inconvenience.”
“Duty comes first. Sarim! Go and see them off.” Sarim nodded with a frown and went to see his officers off. The ceremony proceeded as if nothing happened but for how long.
This curtain of pretense was going to fall one day. And that day was not far away.
One by one Dua watched Ismael’s companion leave. Like the thieves they were.
Run all you want but there will be no place for you to hide.
Xian placed the small black box in her palm when Dua extended her hand. She pulled the platinum ring out and slid it on her middle finger. Next to her father’s ring.
“I deserve a gift, no?” She smirked when Haider looked at her silently. But meaningfully. “Ismael Malik, this is just the beginning towards your end.”
To all of your end.
Maang-tikka- jewelry piece for head
Mera bacha- my child