Shackled Exemption

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CHAPTER 21

Dua admired the lavish interior and design of the mansion. Everything screamed money, power and class down to the very nook. Her hand swept over granite railing as she descended down the grand curved staircase at leisure pace. Guess he doesn’t compromise on quality. Every head shot up when she reached the central lounge. Servants were watching her from head to toe in awe, fear and confusion.

“Bibi jee?” A middle-aged man approached Dua with bowed head. “Saeen is waiting for you at the dining.” Shafiq escorted her to Asfand. Her brow shot up when she saw him sitting at the head chair. The breakfast lay untouched before him. He was busy surfing through his phone with a permanent scowl on his face. Dua slid in the chair on his left and watched him gingerly. Not once did he show any acknowledgment to her presence.

“No, thank you” She refused the attendant and poured herself a glass of juice. She could barely digest anything with this man around. “Cold” Asfand looked at Dua when she spoke. “It’s turning cold” she motioned to his breakfast while sipping her juice. His mouth quirked up arrogantly. Asfand tucked his phone inside his pocket with a hum.

“What happened to not becoming a typical obedient wife?” He chuckled while slicing his omelet. “Juice is not enough to give you ample energy to fight janaan. You need to eat properly.”

“I lost my appetite when I saw a living nightmare.” Asfand controlled his temper at her taunt. He could discipline her thoroughly for this impudence but he chose to ignore it for now. “You haven’t told your servants? They were looking at me like I was another one of your one-night-stand that forgot to leave by the night.”

“Shafiq!” Asfand slammed his fork on the table. The middle-aged man came running and stood by his side with head bowed in respect and fear. “Call everyone in the main hall. Now.” Dua looked at Asfand in question when he stood up as well. Without saying anything, he grabbed her hand and dragged her behind him. He could have asked her but no, he had to prove he was stronger than her.

Every head was bowed when Asfand came to central lounge. Dua felt pity for the souls that were enslaved to this wolf. She could see how much fear he instilled in them and she was sure not even a single one was here on freewill.

“Listen very carefully because I won’t be tolerating Chinese whispers. This is your lady, Dua Asfandyar Sherzai. My wife. Carve it in your memories once and for all.” Dua looked at Asfand in silence.

“Wife? You thought this was a sacred marriage. It is not a holy matrimony my love.”

“I won’t tolerate any insubordination towards her. Whatever she needs and whenever, you are to be at her beck and call. Always.”

“You are just going to be a bride for the night.”

“I don’t want any complains.” They synced like a chorus and returned to their chores without batting an eyelash. Her hands shook, eyes burnt and she looked away when Asfand turned to her.

“Saeen?” Safan entered with three men and they nodded to Asfand in respect. “They are here.”

“What are you waiting for? Are they guests?” Asfand watched Dua with a mischievous glint in his eyes. “They are...family.”

Dua rushed towards Jahangir the second he entered after Safan. “Mera bacha” he kissed her forehead affectionately. “You okay?” She smiled bitterly and looked behind him.

“Hey!” Haider embraced her instantly and patted her head affectionately. “Good to see you alive.” Their interaction spiked Asfand’s anger and resentment but he held himself from taking any drastic action. Enough was done and he needed to let things cool.

“You are safe.” Dua patted Amber’s cheek. She was still clueless about everything and Dua knew it was best if she stayed oblivious. “I’m sorry you have to go through such trauma.” She smiled at Rayan.

“Aren’t you going to display any affection for your son-in-law?” Asfand sat on the lush couch with arms spread wide on the headrest. “Grand son-in-law if I may correct. Have a seat Mir Shah.” None of them moved. He was being too disrespectful towards Jahangir and Dua knew it was all on purpose.

“Why did you call us?” Jahangir held his cane firmly with both hands. “You got what you wanted.”

“No, I didn’t. A part is yet to be fulfilled.” Asfand sneered. “Our reception. Walima as we call it here.”

“You want what?” Jahangir raised his arm in warning. “I knew this fucker was up to no good.”

“Haider!” Jahangir interjected calmly and looked towards Asfand. “We will have the reception. Let the world know that business tycoon Asfandyar Sherzai married D. Almas Sahi. My child deserve to be recognized as your wife worldwide Asfandyar.”

“Why not?” Asfand stood up and walked towards their small gathering. He was amazed at their lack of defense. His wife’s right hand man was nowhere in sight. He couldn’t decide whether he should admire their bravery or mock their stupidity to enter enemy’s territory like this.

His musings couldn’t last long.

Right on cue, Xian entered with Aya and three of his men. They were carrying various bags. Asfand frowned when Xian stepped aside to let a middle-aged woman walk in.

“Good morning Ms. Sahi” Dua smiled. “Mir Shah! Chotay Shah! Ms. Amber and” She stopped on Asfand. “Mr. Sherzai. I am Ida. Pleased to be at your service.” He could see a certain kind of disapproval in her eyes towards him.

“I would like to have familiar faces for my own well-being. I’m not used to your environment and I highly doubt I can ever be. I hate getting sick.” Dua explained nonchalantly while taking her phone, wallet and rings from Xian. “Take the bags upstairs Ida. The room is at the end of first hallway.” Ida nodded and left to do her part. “I hope it is not too much?” Dua smirked at Asfand. Not going to be a one way game Mr. Sherzai.

“We will have reception tomorrow, at eight.” Asfand bit out each word slowly. “You will be informed of the venue. Safan!” They watched him storm out at angry pace.

“Well! I’m actually feeling a little sad for Asfandyar.” Jahangir patted Dua on head proudly. “We won’t need to worry about wolf eating our little lamb anymore.” Dua just huffed when Jahangir laughed heartily.

“She is a mutant lamb” Haider snickered at her expressions. “Asfandyar will be dead before he could even digest her.”

**********

“You look beautiful” Dua looked at Ida through her reflection. “Your husband sure know how to spend. They did an amazing job without soiling your natural beauty and this dress looks so beautiful on you.”

“It’s all a waste Ida. Nothing more.” Dua adjusted her maang tikka again. They kept it simple and elegant. Just like she liked, without being asked. “Are you comfortable?”

“Very. He is a generous man, that Asfandyar Sherzai and very handsome. Gave me luxurious room of my own.” Dua mused at her expressions. “Only if it wasn’t all pretense and looks. You ought to be careful young miss.”

“And here I thought you started liking him.” Dua took off her rings and gave them to Ida. “Take care of them.”

Now that she married Asfand, she knew Jahangir Shah and Haider won’t sit in peace. They can’t stay in Pakistan and they wouldn’t want to leave her with Asfand. His intentions about her were still unclear. So, Dua called Ida here to make things tad bit easy for everyone.

“Did you contact Xian?” Ida nodded in silence. “I’m glad you are here.” Not only she was going to strengthen her stay in wolf’s den, she was also going to aid greatly in her plans.

“Leave” Ida nodded at Asfand and left the couple alone. Dua looked at his reflection when he came to stand behind her. He was dressed in a charcoal grey three piece suit which was enhancing the outline of his strong build. His hair were gelled stylishly and his five-o-clock was trimmed to perfection in contrast to his sharp jawline. The cuts on his face were hardly noticeable and white strips on his forehead were replaced by a small bandage.

“You are very quick with your actions.” Asfand smirked and extended his hand. Dua looked at him in question but placed hers in it nonetheless. “What?” She inquired when he helped her stand and turned her around to face him.

“You actually look like a Dua.” Asfand caressed her cheek with his knuckles. “I don’t want to go to reception anymore. I don’t want those hungry eyes to feast upon your beauty. It is solely mine.” Dua shook her head at his paradoxical approach. Her hands automatically reached for his slightly crooked tie and this little gesture amused Asfand to no extent. “There is something that needs a touch up.”

“Wh-” Asfand raised her left hand and practically ripped her engagement ring off her finger. She saw the red mark his assault left on her finger. “There was no need to-”

“I told you before, didn’t I?” Asfand pulled a Cartier box from his pocket and took the cushion-cut clear diamond ring out of it. “I don’t like to share and you are not made to wear such garbage.” He slid the ring on her finger gently. The same finger he abused seconds ago. “Beautiful.” Her heart thudded painfully when he raised her hand to his lips and left lingering kisses on each finger. “My beautiful Dua." Dua turned her head slightly when he kissed near her mouth.

She was hating it but didn’t pull away. It would lead to no good and right now, she didn’t want to end up in any argument with him. Asfand knew she didn’t like it but he still touched her. It was to spite, torment and to see her cower in fear. But she never reacted, nor she was going to.

Her focus was on her revenge and in this moment, reaching the venue. What she had in mind, was to proceed from there. She could deal with Asfand later. He was long way down the list and she was not going to make it quick and easy for him.

You wait Asfandyar Sherzai. This marriage will become your biggest regret.

Asfand chuckled at her attempts to dodge. He could tell she didn’t feel comfortable when he touched her but the tough woman didn’t show it. For how long? Asfand was bent on having her but not like this. Not forcefully. He knew what he needed to do and for that, he will have to show a lot of restraint and patience towards her attitude. It was not just about fucking her anymore. It became much more than that.

He was going to break her defenses first. He was going to make her addicted to his touch. He intended to get her so incessant with him that the thought of leaving won’t be crossing her mind ever. Then, he will gain full control over her and once that happened, she will be a puppet to the strings he will pull in any direction.

“Let’s go” Dua linked her arm with his reluctantly and let him guide her out. It’s not going to be easy but that will be the thrilling part of it.

Servants watched them in awe and admiration when they came down the stairs. Asfand helped Dua in the backseat of his black Lexus before getting in beside her. They looked perfect together. Just like missing pieces of puzzle that were made to fit each other. But only on the outside.

In reality, this marriage was nothing but an empty shell that was bound to crumble.

**********

Their reception turned out to be one big event. Most people were business associates and partner in various projects to Asfand. Some wanted his attention but a lot were here to see her. For them, Dua was a new gateway to money and success in business world. They were not here to be part of their union. They wanted to pave way for a heavy deal that could fill their pockets.

Since their intentions were clear, the couple steered clear from majority of them. Media wanted to have exclusive interview but no one was allowed to come near. Dua spent most of her time with her foster family. The place looked less of a reception and more of a battleground. Their men were too alert and wary of each other. And the tense atmosphere didn’t go unnoticed by their guests either who were bound to gossip. There was a lot to talk about.

Their sudden wedding and the reason behind the wedding between two powerful business persons.

“How is Sarim?” Dua inquired when Asfand excused himself. He was glued to her side like a shadow throughout evening and Dua finally breathed when he left. “I am sorry Dar-jee. Because of me, they got hurt.”

“They are fine. It’s unexpected for all of us. Don’t feel guilty for anything bacha. Sarim will get out of it soon.” Jahangir looked at his grandson in apprehension. His permanent scowl was clearly giving his displeasure away. “Learn to control your emotions and expressions Haider. You are inviting trouble for your sister.” Amber looked at Haider in question.

“Like it wouldn’t have come otherwise.” He stepped aside to let them see three of now five bastards coming towards them. Behroze and Afroz were missing. “I don’t know why you would even agree to do this.” Haider stepped on the left of Dua with Amber. Xian was standing behind her and they were keep a vigilant eye for everything.

“Ms. Sahi or should we say, Mrs. Sherzai” Azfar was first to step up. “Such a surprise it is.” Dua could very clearly see the meaning hidden behind his sneer. All of them could. “And here we thought you were going to marry that army brat.”

“She would have if that brat didn’t bail on her like that.” Their postured tensed when Asfand stood next to Dua. “Poor soldier got cold feet in last moment. I guess when it comes to marriage, even the bravest fail. Won’t you agree Baig?”

“And you acted as her knight in shining armor? Interesting tale to pass to your children. Having an accident and marriage on the same day? Hard to comprehend Chotay Saeen.”

“Did you want to be in my place? But alas” Dua didn’t react when Asfand placed his hand at the small of her back.

“You can never change.” Asfand just smirked in response. “But who could have thought Ms. Sahi will end up marrying in this manner?” Asfand watched Dua from his periphery. “Don’t you think it’s too typical of a behavior from a headstrong woman like you?”

“Mr. Khan. How are you? I’m sorry about your loss but I’m sure you will compensate it soon enough.” Azfar simmered silently when Dua ignored him so bluntly. “I was looking forward to have a meeting with you soon. Have Xian contacted you?”

“Yes and I am grateful for this kind gesture.”

“I don’t do kindness Mr. Khan. It’s profit that I look forward to. After all” Dua turned to Asfand with a sweet smile. “It’s business we are talking about.”

“What are you up to janaan?” Asfand muttered in her ear.

“Let’s not talk about business. It’s our- what did you call it?” Dua hummed thoughtfully. “Oh yes. Walima. Let’s not spoil it.”

“Did you tell Afroz?” Asfand and Dua didn’t look away from each other when that wretched name echoed in their ears. Through their very beings. “He will be disappointed-”

“You don’t have to worry about his pleasure and displeasure. I’m sure he sent his blessings from his trip Azfar.”

“What about Behroze-”

“Asfandyar!” Jahangir intervened. “It’s time and we would appreciate if Dua come to the airport with us.” Jahangir gave one hard look to their audience.

“Why not...Mir Shah.” Asfand replied coldly. “Don’t think our conversation ends here janaan.” He whispered in her ear before leaving.

“Excuse us gentlemen.” Jahangir looked towards his children. They walked away with him without another word.

“How did you end up making a deal with that girl?” Azfar whispered next to Yusuf when they left. “And why the fuck didn’t you tell us about anything? You didn’t seem surprised to see her as his wife? You knew?”

“You need to cut this crap already. I cracked this deal because unlike you, I am not digging dirt on her name. For fucks sake, can’t you see she doesn’t remember us?” Azfar scoffed at this. “You are nothing more than a pet of Afroz Sherzai and I am so done with their shit. And you” Yusuf turned to Jalal. “Get out while you still can. That Afroz can do nothing but leech off us. His own blood is good for nothing, that’s why he wants Asfandyar out of his way. But you know what, real power lies in that man and now, he got a wife who is as powerful as him. So, where does that leave those so-called father/son?” Yusuf sneered at Azfar. “Nowhere.”

“You are going to betray us?” Azfar snarled at him. “You think Behroze will let this slide? His-”

“You don’t get to talk about betrayal Azfar. You are worst of all. I got the remnants of explosives and guess what? They belonged to the shipment Afroz smuggled from Russians. You bastards. I refused to sell my shares and this is what you do.” Yusuf raised his hand before Azfar could spout shit. “As for Behroze, he can’t get to say anything when he was practically groveling at his feet. He wanted profit through Asfandyar and he was a fool to think Asfandyar will let himself be played like a fool.” Yusuf walked away from them.

“It didn’t take long” Dua chuckled at the circus her preys put forth. “We didn’t even go halfway and they are already lunging at each other’s neck. Interesting.” Guests started to leave one by one and soon, it was only them in the grand hall. “Double check their flight. Make sure everything is alright.” Xian nodded and left when Asfand came to her.

“Time for good-byes janaan."

**********

Jahangir held her face between his hands. There were silent prayers in his eyes for his little doll because no words could equate to what he was leaving his child in. She was on her own now. Even if Xian and Ida were here and Aya as well, he knew his child was still going to be alone. And now that he saw her like this, he noticed how alone she already was.

A fear crept in his heart of what will become of these children when he will leave this world as well. Though Haider got a family and was moving on at steady pace but what about Dua? That gap and hole was still there and nothing could fill it up.

What will she do?

“You were always so brave” Dua smiled at him. “You were always the survivor, mera bacha. The brave daughter of your parents.” Asfand watched them silently from afar. “Make your parents proud. Make me proud. Be a lesson. Be an example. Be that kind of Dua that turn the tides and bend the mountains to her will.”

“Take care Dar-jee” Jahangir patted her head when Dua embraced him tightly. “Take care of yourself always.”

“And you too” Dua looked at Haider. “We are just one call away. So, don’t you dare suffer anything alone.” Dua chuckled when he tried to ruffle her hair like always. “Stay strong and brave. Take care of her Xian.” Haider turned and his vision focused on the man behind him. At Asfand who was keeping a favorable distance from them. “Her own shadow is not trustworthy enough.” Asfand scoffed lowly at his remark.

“You pay attention to Amber and Rayan. Keep them happy and safe.” They looked at departure when their flight was announced. “I guess it’s time.”

“Asfandyar!” Jahangir walked back to him. “She is your wife and I hope you know what it means.” Asfand didn’t blink while looking him in the eye. “I have faith in Allah.” Jahangir patted his shoulder and walked away. Dua lowered her head in respect when Jahangir came back to her. “Take care.” Giving one look to Asfandyar, Jahangir went ahead.

“Be careful... kidco” Haider murmured in her ear and patted her head when she pulled away with a bitter smile. She hugged Amber and Rayan and watched them walk after Jahangir.

“Good bye” She whispered lowly. Her head shot up when Asfand stopped by her side. They kept looking at each other for a few seconds, completely forgetting where they were. “Xian?” Dua looked away first. “You can leave for the night. But I want you tomorrow, sharp at nine." Xian nodded and left. Asfand didn’t say anything to Dua when they left as well.

**********

Dua stepped out of their and went inside mansion silently. She was too quiet which was giving Asfand an unsettling feeling. And then there was her conversation with Khan. When the hell did that happen? Asfand knew he needed to find out before his tigress struck her next victim.

“Safan!” Asfand called him when Dua went up to their room. “Find out what deal Khan made with my wife. And keep an eye on Xian’s activities.”

“You doubt her?” Asfand loosened his tie and unbuttoned his jacket before slumping on the couch. “You think it was her who blew him up like that? You have invested in his next chain Asfand. It could cost you.”

“And you know why I invested in the first place?” Asfand looked towards Safan meaningfully. “I don’t care if she is blowing them up like dust. I just don’t want her to find out what part we are playing in this game.”

“Very well” Safan nodded and left. Asfand was craving a strong drink but he knew he couldn’t afford to lose his senses right now. He removed his jacket and hooked it over his shoulder with two fingers while walking up to his room. Their room. It was going to be a torture for him. To be close but not touch and taste that forbidden fruit.

“What’s so forbidden about it?” Asfand mused darkly at his own thoughts. “The whole tree is mine now.” He went straight to their closet. His steps came to an abrupt halt when he saw Dua sitting by the dressing. In a sexy black nightie.

Help me lord.

“Need help?” Dua looked up when Asfand took the bottle from her. “I can see you are having some difficulty.” Removing her hair aside, he began rubbing the moisturizer on her bare back.

Asshole! He won’t slip any chance to touch me.

“I have applied enough.” Dua stood up abruptly when his hand connected with her left shoulder. Her tattoo. She attempted to walk past Asfand but he held her back by encircling her abdomen. She gasped in surprise when he twisted her around and held her captive in his arms. “Asfand!” Dua pushed at his chest when he removed her hair from her left shoulder and let his fingers guide their way to her tattoo.

“What happened?” He traced the rough skin under the ink slowly. It looked like burns and she bore the pain of getting a tattoo on it? His eyes darkened when Dua flinched like the touch actually hurt. Pain was evident in her beautiful eyes. Asfand cupped her jaw and forced her to look at him instead of his chest. “What happened Dua?”

Her hands fisted on his chest. Just the mere question was reminder of that pain and Dua could actually feel the rod pushed in her skin.

Like you don’t know. You are one of them. I’m sure you laughed as well when your so-called uncle would have told you how he poked the hot rod in my shoulder.

“Dua-”

“I am tired.” She squirmed in his hold violently. “Can we please continue this tomorrow?” Asfand gnashed his teeth at her stubbornness. He let her go with a jerk and went straight to the bathroom, banging the door loudly behind him. His anger was all over the place.

“You intend to this?” A feral grin appeared on his face and he palmed the marble counter with a satisfactory hum. “Fine by me janaan. I would love it more than anything.”

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