Shackled Exemption

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CHAPTER 23

“Send copy to Sharlene and double check everything with her.” Iram followed Dua inside her office. “What is the name of the owner? The I.T Company that reached for us.”

“LiveTech. His name is Rizwan Abbas.” Dua nodded and sat in her chair. She motioned for Iram to sit as well and opened her laptop to go through the clauses one more time. There was no place for mistakes.

“Schedule a lunch meeting with them on Thursday. You are to go in my stead.”

“But ma’am?” Iram was stuttering nonstop. “I mean- I will. I-” Dua raised her hand without looking up. “Okay ma’am.”

“There is something else you need to do.” Dua clasped her hands beneath her chin and smiled at Iram. That beautifully dangerous smile. “Do you know Azfar Baig? The politician?”

“You mean that corrupt Azfar Baig?” Dua raised a skeptic brow at her sour expressions. “Are you doing a deal with him? Ma’am! That’s a terrible idea.”

“Not really but I have a task for you.” Dua chuckled at her appalled expressions. “He has a son, right? What was his name?” Iram paled when her boss mentioned that demon. “Wasiq-Are you okay?” Iram nodded and picked her fallen stuff hurriedly. “What happened to answer with your mouth?”

“Sorry ma’am” Iram stuttered again. “What do you want me to do?”

“Gather intel on him. Don’t leave anything.” Dua looked behind her when Xian and Aya entered after a brief knock. “You may leave now.” Iram got up and left them alone. “Is it done?”

“Why?” Dua leaned back and interlocked her fingers.

“He won’t be useful otherwise.” Her calm reply didn’t put Xian to ease. “Asfandyar needs to have his power for me to execute my revenge.” His silence was irking Dua. “What?”

“And you can bear with it?” Aya looked between them. She knew what Xian was referring to. If she hadn’t shot that bullet on her wedding night, who knew what could have occurred. It’s not that Dua couldn’t handle the situation but being wed to Asfand changes a lot.

Aya was on stand-by every night to monitor their activities. She was also given the watch, identical to Dua and Xian to keep check of her well-being. It was synced to her heartbeat, pulse rate and breathing. If there was a slight change in the pattern, they would know Dua was in danger. These watches kept them connected throughout without being detected. Xian didn’t trust Asfandyar and now, Aya didn’t as well.

That man was a silent killer and Aya knew what kind of threat the silent ones posed.

“Why would I be here if I wasn’t sure?” Aya sighed inaudibly. Dua was too stubborn, that much she learnt over time. If Xian was worked up, it clearly meant her boss was jeopardizing more than necessary.

“It was done the moment he took you out of his estate.”

“And what about Khan?” Dua twisted her chair to left. “What was his meeting about?”

“Mikhailov gave these files” Xian placed three black folders before her. A tick was clear near her jaw when she opened them. Apparently, his smugness was not sitting well with their boss. Xian’s concern was valid but Dua wasn’t going to listen to it. Not when she knew it was the price she needed to pay. “He has finalized the deal in Florida.”

“And these people are ready to invest?” Dua raised a brow while reading through the files. “What part is Asfandyar playing in all this? He owns fifty percent of Karachi’s branch, right? Is he investing in this overseas project?”

“Those fifty percent have become seventy-five percent now.” Her head shot up instantly. “Yusuf Khan has transferred fifty percent from each branch to his name. That’s why Asfandyar is ready to invest in his new project and all these potential investors are willing because of him. They are not just ordinary businessmen.”

“Of course!” Dua chuckled and leaned in her chair. Asfand kept a perfect balance between his legal and illegal business. For him, reputation was as much important as wealth and power. All his business associates were world renowned people that no one could even imagine or dare to raise their heads to. On what activities they were carrying underneath the respectable name.

In her husband’s case, something was amiss. Dua didn’t pay attention before but now she was connecting the dots. Asfand was slowly and stealthily taking over his nemesis without them realizing it.

And she was clearing up his path.

“Nothing comes free” Dua looked at them with a ghostly smile. “Behroze didn’t come to our reception. And if I remember correctly, Azfar did mention his affliction towards Asfandyar’s decision. Find out why.” Xian nodded silently. “Arrange a meeting with Khan and let him know of our proposition.” Dua turned to Aya. “It’s time to land the next strike.”

*********

“Get it done as quickly as possible.” Dua looked up from her papers when Asfand entered the room. She checked the time on her watch and looked back at her husband who was busy giving orders on his call. She was seeing him after four days and he was going to leave again for Singapore tomorrow by early morning flight. Not that it mattered to her but she needed to know of his moves and what he was up to. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” Asfand ended the call and threw his phone on the bed.

He didn’t even notice Dua sitting by the private lounge of their room and watching him quietly. A frown appeared on her face when Asfand removed his suit jacket and threw it on the bed. He unbuckled his belt and kicked his shoes off simultaneously before reaching for his shirt. Dua stood up abruptly and went to him. It was one thing to ignore her and another thing to litter the room.

And she was not going to live with it.

“Stop!” Asfand raised a skeptic brow when she held his wrist. He was halfway done with unbuttoning his shirt when Dua stopped him from taking it off. Her expressions were hard and eyes were showing disapproval which amused him. He turned to face her fully and observed angry expressions on her beautiful face.

Asfand was seeing her after four days and he would rather be damned than admitting it. He kind of missed her. Her defiance, her fiery attitude, her beautiful face, eyes, cheeks, nose and lips. Everything. He missed so badly but he needed to put some distance between them.

Especially after what happened that day.

Asfand didn’t trust himself enough to withdraw after getting a taste of her. She was not what he imagined her to be. Her taste was sinful and he knew he won’t be able to resist if he came close again. But only he knew how he lived these four days.

And it was not only this.

He was called back home. To Chagai. Asfand knew it was going to be unavoidable once he married Dua. His uncle was bound to find out. Not that he wouldn’t have known already but he had to create a buzz around things for his sick amusement. They already knew who she was. The moment she set foot in Pakistan, her real identity was exposed to her enemies. And their nikah only ascertained everything.

For them, she was a tool to use for their sick plans that couldn’t reach any conclusion last time. To get those sixty-five percent shares. And now, they wanted him to stand on their side to get what they wanted. But the question is, did he want to? Well! They could dream on it for their sordid lives.

What do they know? That one of his biggest motives to get Dua back in his life are those shares. He was going to have them under his name along with many other things. He was willing to go to any length to fulfill his motives. He will do anything.

Killing too, if needed.

“What are you doing?” His brow shot up again when she questioned apprehensively. Her brows were creased and her mouth was set in an angry pout. She was standing before him with arms crossed over her chest. His eyes lingered from her face, down to her body in a silk nightdress before moving back to her face.

“Hey!” Dua blocked his path when Asfand tried to walk away from her. She was fuming inside at his cold attitude and arrogance. What does he think of himself? “I am talking to you.” She could notice the change in his demeanor. He was fine moments ago but then, the gear shifted. “You think I am dying to talk to you? You are highly mistaken. I don’t care but I can’t tolerate you coming after days and just-”

Her words died when Asfand pulled her to him. His one arm tightened around her waist and with his free hand, he tilted her head back by grabbing her neck. Dua couldn’t make of his behavior. She was confused by the angry look in his eyes.

“What?” She whispered when his hot breath fanned her lips. His face was looming over her like shadow. His height and build engulfed her small frame completely when he caged her in his arms. For a second, Dua felt intimidated by this man holding her. I was right. There is something infernal about him. “What are you doing?” She whispered while trying to look away from his penetrating eyes.

“What are you doing?” Asfand murmured huskily against her lips. Her eyes closed with a sharp intake when his deep voice vibrated deep within her. Not again.

“I was just-” Dua cleared her throat to keep her mind sane when his lips brushed against hers softly. Asfand just hummed with closed eyes and for a second, she felt tempted to do the same. If those words weren’t ringing in her head like a call from hell. “Stop throwing your stuff wherever Asfand.” His eyes snapped open when she broke free of his hold. “This won’t do.” He looked towards the direction of her thumb.

Way to ruin the moment. Asfand crossed his arms with a scowl and looked down at his tiny wife. She was standing all proud and looking at him heatedly. For being so small, she sure possess a lot of attitude. “What are you referring to?” Dua grabbed his clothes from bed and thrust them in his chest. Asfand was stunned by her action just now. Damn! This woman is really testing my patience. “What. The. Fuck?”

“I don’t like it. Trashing the place. We have bathroom and closet for a reason Asfand.”

“And we have maids and servants too.” Asfand dumped his clothes on the bed again. Just to see what his wife will do. Dua scowled at him but it was having reverse effect. “Why are you getting so worked up over such trivial matters? Call one of the maids to clean this up.”

“Just because you can afford the luxury doesn’t mean you should behave like a caveman.”

“A caveman?” Asfand looked her over his shoulder in anger and amusement. “Did you just call me a barbarian?” She really have no fear of me.

“Yes, because you behave like one.” Dua just shrugged. “I can’t live like this. Let me shift to some other room.” Her one statement dampened his mood. “It’s not like it even matters. We hardly notice or acknowledge each other’s presence. Or live together.”

Dua was startled when Asfand turned abruptly and towered her small frame in the next instant. She tried not to flinch at their closeness when Asfand stepped further close to her. Too close. She could feel his body heat radiating towards her and his scent invading her senses.

Without looking away from her, Asfand grabbed his stuff. His jaw was locked angrily when he stood to his full height, towering her again. “Stop testing me Dua” He gritted lowly and stormed past her to their closet. Dua couldn’t get what just happened. Her heart was thundering in her chest. The watch beeped and she turned it off before Asfand could notice. “And next time” She turned and watched him palm the frame of glass door. “Don’t dare to mention living in separate room.”

“Or what?” Dua interjected haughtily. Asfand smirked and came to her at leisure pace which did no good to her already pounding heart.

“Or” Asfand grabbed her wrist and raised it to his mouth. Her skin tingled when his lips connected to it and he rained kisses all the way towards her palm. “I like it. Your henna clad hands. And I would hate it.” He kept kissing his way towards her fingers slowly. “If I had to chain them to bed.”

“You are impossible” Dua pulled her hand free and stepped away. “Just keep your hands to yourself.” Asfand chuckled when she stormed away at angry pace. He enjoyed it. Tormenting her. But his own musings sometimes ended up becoming his undoing.

“Ten days” Asfand whispered to himself while watching Dua sit by their private lounge and go through her documents furiously. She won’t be returning to bed early. “Ten fucking days.” He chuckled bitterly and went to freshen up. “I am hating it already.”

*********

Asfand stood by her side silently and adjusted his cuff-links without looking away from her face. Her sleeping face that bore no malice in the moment. Dua was curled up to her side like a baby. She looked like an angel in her sleep with the innocence she bore in her beauty. Asfand was sometimes amazed by it. She went through hell and still managed to stand so strong, tall and proud. She was the perfect example of ‘broken makes the best’. Those cracks in her soul were what made her so damn attractive. But that was not all about Dua Asfandyar Sherzai.

Asfand had seen her. The real her.

The pain hidden beneath anger and hatred. The dejection and melancholy. That loneliness and defeat.

And watching her in such vulnerable conditions always ignited something within him. Something new and foreign. A flame burnt with an entirely different passion and Asfand couldn’t decide what to make of it.

Checking time on his watch once, he sighed inaudibly and focused his eyes back on her sleeping wife. It was time for his flight.

It hasn’t been a week and this woman was getting under his skin. Like a lethal poison with no antidote. He didn’t want to get addicted to her like this. He didn’t plan on it. Dua was his obsession. His pawn in this game. He was supposed to use her, get full on her and leave or discard her once she was of no use to him. He never thought he would start getting habitual of her presence in his life.

She was pulling his strings and he was fucking let her.

“Like they could stop me from getting close to you.” Asfand chuckled in amusement at the supposed wall she built between them with throw pillows. He turned her carefully and clasped the platinum pendant with dove-shaped diamond around her neck. This fucking debacle needs to end now.

Dua stirred when his fingers caressed her cheek softly. His lips were aching to kiss her but he refrained from doing so. He needed to get in control and once he will be back from this trip, it will be long gone.

This fatal attraction he started to feel towards his wife.

“I am the puppeteer of this game janaan." He whispered against her lips and stood up straight. “I will own your body, heart, mind and soul. Not the other way around.” I really need to get my fucking mind back on track. Pulling his phone out, he turned away from her and called Safan. “Is it done?” Asfand listened carefully while closing the door and walked down the hallway. “Make sure you keep an eye on everything while I am gone Safan. I want report of her every move and activity. I’m counting on it. Don’t disappoint me.”

*********

Dua was adjusting her hightail when her eyes landed on the pendant around her neck. Her fingers grazed the small bird lightly. It has been three days since Asfand went to Singapore and left this unwanted and undesired gift behind.

Yet Dua made no attempt to take it off.

There were no news of him except for the new orders he left around the mansion for her. Her ban had been lifted and she was free to leave the premises of the estate as she wanted. Dua was allowed to access every part of the mansion except his study.

Another addition to all this turbulence was Safan. He has been keeping eye on her so vigilantly and Dua knew why. Asfand was keeping tabs of her activities. Just like she was. She knew it was not going to be easy. He was bound to sniff her out but she was not worried. Even if Asfand did find everything, he won’t stop or hinder her.

Because that is what Asfand wants.

“You are very naive to think I don’t understand your intentions Mr. Sherzai. I feel offended.” This little debaucherous game will cost you a lot. “I need to prepare a surprise for you husband.” Dua wore her track jacket and adjusted the watch on her wrist with a smirk. “In return for everything you gave. Something worthy of your undivided attention.” Giving herself one last glance in the mirror, Dua left the room and came out of the mansion.

Guards bowed their heads in respect because of the position she held. The more she was reminded of her relation with Asfand, the more she hated him.

Dua broke into a sprint when she hit the road outside their estate. Her eyes closed and she breathed deeply. A sense of liberation filled her insides whenever she was outside his four walls. Every second in his mansion was equivalent to million deaths for her. His name next to hers was an invisible shackle Dua couldn’t break.

Every time she struck it to break free, it choked her harder.

She wanted to kill Asfand. She could have killed him the first night he brought her here. But she didn’t. No matter how badly Dua wanted it, she knew she will have to refrain now. Asfand was her ace against those people. His infatuation and obsession with her. It was increasing with each passing day. Dua knew her physical beauty weakened his male ego at certain points and she was going to strike those according to her precedence.

They say women is the root of every problem?

But this woman was going to haul this phrase around.

***********

“Ms. Sahi!” Dua smiled when Yusuf stood up to receive her. “I presume you would prefer to be called that?”

“Absolutely” She sat opposite him and put her shades on the table. “My time is money Mr. Khan. Shall we get down to business?” Yusuf rubbed his hands suggestively and ordered his manager to bring the best of their refreshments. “Have Xian discussed everything?”

“Yes.” Dua nodded and Xian opened two identical files before them. Yusuf turned one towards him and looked at her.

“Would you like to double check?” Dua signed the pages without bothering to read through the clauses and closed it once done. Yusuf was amazed by her confidence and since he didn’t want her to think of him in negative light, he did the same. Without reading the clauses. “Are you sure Mr. Khan? You can read the terms if you like.” Dua leaned back in her chair and watched Yusuf sign the papers in zeal.

“I trust you Ms. Sahi.” Yusuf closed the file and moved it towards her. Xian took theirs and exchanged them with his assistant who checked every page and then nodded at his boss.

“Welcome to my world Mr. Khan.” Yusuf was so high on his small victory that he didn’t notice the trap he entered on his own feet. “You will make fifty times of what you were making before. And even more if you stick by my side. But nothing comes free Mr. Khan.” She refused the waiter and added sugar to her own cup. “I demand your loyalty in return for my investment. I strictly adhere to my policies and I prefer my associates to abide by the rules as well.”

“You don’t have to worry Ms. Sahi. You have my loyalty at your call.” Dua nodded slowly and circled the rim of her cup.

“And your companions? What about them?” Yusuf paled and wiped his forehead furiously. “Let me be very clear about certain matters Mr. Khan. I don’t like them, not after how they talked to me on my reception. It might be a custom among you to look down on women but same won’t go with me. I am D. Almas Sahi and I don’t sit well with uncalled snubs and snobs.”

“I completely understand Ms. Sahi and I am highly ashamed of their behavior.”

“You lot seemed close but I would like to clarify Mr. Khan” Dua palmed the table. “I don’t need trouble at my hands. Don’t make me change my mind about investing in your projects.”

“Yusuf!” Dua didn’t look up from her cup when Behroze approached them. The apprehension, anger and resentment was clear in his tone and Dua didn’t need to affirm whom it was directed towards. “What are you doing with this woman?”

“Not now Behroze. We will talk later.” Yusuf tried to wave him off but the man was blinded by whatever.

“You!” Dua looked at him with raised brow when he banged his fist on the table and snarled in her face. “You filthy bitch.” She raised her hand for Xian to stand-by and looked Behroze in the eye. She could tell her calmness was rattling his nerves. “Don’t think you fool me. You will pay for everything you did, you wench.”

“That’s enough Behroze” Yusuf pulled him away from Dua. “Leave or I will be forced to call the security.” Behroze barked a cold laugh and turned to Dua again.

“I can see what is going on here but I assure you one thing. You will regret it.” Behroze faced Yusuf again. “You will regret it. Have you forgotten what the price of betraying us is?”

“My hands are not tied either. I am so done with you. Just leave.” Behroze forced him back when Yusuf turned the other way. “Have you fucking lost your mind Behroze? I said I am done.”

“But I am not. You will pay for this. I will kill you bastard. I will kill that Asfandyar and I will kill this bitch.”

“Guards!” Yusuf yelled angrily and pushed Behroze away when he grabbed his collar. “Call the fucking security and get this lunatic out of here.”

“I will kill you. I will fucking kill you all for playing me like this” Yusuf fumed and watched his men drag Behroze away. He has fucking lost his mind and it won’t be long he lose his life as well.

“Are you okay Ms. Sahi?” She looked up from her phone and smiled at Yusuf. Dua stayed apathetic towards whole. Not a single crease appeared on her forehead or any bitter expression crossed her features when Behroze invaded her personal space. She seemed too unbothered which gave an unnerving feeling to Yusuf. This woman is daunting. “I’m sorry for what happened just now.”

“Make sure you monitor your audience Mr. Khan. Such people will only stain your reputation and I don’t entertain lunatics.” She got up and nodded at Xian. “I have a busy schedule. Xian will contact you soon. Be prepared for the first board meeting.”

“Very well.” Yusuf nodded eagerly. At last, I will own a kingdom of my own. “Pleasure doing business with you Ms. Sahi.”

“It’s just the beginning Mr. Khan.” Dua put on her Aviators. “Just the beginning.” Towards your doom. “I’ll see you around.” She walked away at confident pace, leaving her gleeful prey behind. “Tell Aya to set the bait.” Xian nodded and opened the door for her when they reached their car in the lobby.

Dua stopped and looked at the black Fortuner, parked twenty steps behind her car. She didn’t need to double check who the vehicle belonged to. Dua got in her car and waited for Xian to sit as well. Once the car drove out of Khan’s hotel and towards her office, she opened the tab and went through the report Mikhailov sent her.

“How do you want to proceed?” Xian inquired after checking the layouts as well. Dua hummed in response and watched the evergreen scenery flew by. A smirk appeared on her lips and she watched the ring on her finger.

How?

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