Shackled Exemption

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CHAPTER 24

Dua was busy going through an important report when Iram entered her office after a brief knock. “I’m sorry ma’am but Mr. Sarim Chaudhary requests to meet you.” Dua clasped her hands and watched her quietly. Six days. It has been six days now that Sarim was following her. “Ma’am?”

“Send him in.” There was no point in avoiding it. Sarim has been bothering her through texts and calls, demanding to meet him once. She has been turning him off but he became more persistent. He even started following her everywhere.

Dua was shocked when she saw his Fortuner outside Khan’s hotel that day. She has seen his vehicle parked outside the premises of estate as well. Dua couldn’t get why he wasn’t understanding that there was no use crying over what has been done.

She knew his male ego was bruised but she had no time to entertain it. She was furious at his ignorant attitude towards the whole situation. She was not only a successful businesswoman but also married to one of the powerful man around the world. Sarim, coming to meet her like this could create a lot of unwanted complications. Especially, when media still had their eyes and ears on the newlywed couple.

“You can leave.” Giving one look to the man, Iram left. “What brings you here Mr. Chaudhary?” Dua inquired calmly. He is an army officer for goodness sake. He should at least retain some dignity.

“You look good.” Sarim was looking pathetic and behaving like a lovesick puppy, made him look even more contemptible. He sustained heavy damage at Asfand’s hands. Dua had no idea how and she made no attempt to find it either. For her, staying in Pakistan mattered. It didn’t matter how and through whom. “Are you happy?”

“I don’t have time for this-”

“You will have to make time Dua.” Sarim slammed his palms hard on her table. Looking at him, being so desperate made her wonder why she said yes to him in the first place. He was too clingy. “I’m sorry. I just wanted to know-”

“You wanted to know why we didn’t tell you Asfand was my husband.” His lips pursed at her cold reply. “What will it change?”

“Everything.” Dua leaned in her chair with and breathed deeply. Sarim was crossing the line and she didn’t want to say anything. Because of her Dar-jee. He cherished his relation with Dilawar Chaudhary and Dua respected that. She didn’t want to do or say anything that could overshadow their terms. But if Sarim continued this charade, she was not sure. “Why are you still in this marriage with him? After everything he did to you? Why Dua? Is he still threatening you? You can tell me. We can put him behind the bars together. You just have to say the word.”

“Do I look like I could be threatened into anything?”

“Then why?” Dua pursed her lips at this and looked away. “I know he forced you into this marriage again. And I am going to get you out of it whether you like it or not.”

“It doesn’t concern you anymore.” Dua was regretting with every bone in her body on agreeing to his proposal that time. The fool was going to ruin everything. “Marrying him again was my choice. And our wedding couldn’t have been possible either. I was already in his nikah and he never divorced me.”

“I love you Dua-”

“And I respect my nikah” She finalized. “This is the last time I am entertaining you Mr. Chaudhary. Next time, don’t even dare say such words.”

“No one gave you the right to play with me either.” his eyes turned cold as well. “I gave you a choice Dua. Don’t blame me later that I didn’t warn you.” Her brows creased at this. “Do you even know that man? Apart from being your husband and a successful businessman worldwide? He is a notorious mafia leader Dua. He was the one who blew up Ismael’s deployment.”

“You are making it personal Sarim. He won’t leave behind a clue if it was him. “You are only going to get hurt.”

“I am going to bring that man to his knees. I am going to expose him to the world. He will have to pay the price for his sins. You can count on it Dua. His fortune runs out from here onward.” Dua didn’t move an inch when Sarim left.

Her hands unconsciously reached for her pendant and she twisted it furiously. What is this mess now? She knew it was of no concern to her. Whatever happened to Asfand but she still couldn’t dissipate the anxiety bubbling up within her. Dua knew Asfand was not this impetuous. Even if he did exploded those militants, he won’t leave any footprints behind.

Dua needed Asfand. And if what Sarim said was true and Asfand got caught, that could jeopardize everything. This needs to be sorted before his return.

“I cannot lose you Asfand” she grabbed the small dove tightly before removing the pendant and placed it in the drawer. How foolish of you to think that I won’t know this is a tracker. Walking out of her chair, she went to the glass wall and palmed it. “Not now.”

********

“That is not the main issue Hadi.” Dua was on call when Xian entered the glass room with Aya. And judging from her expressions, it didn’t seem pleasant. “Get Sarim off my back.” Xian looked towards Aya in silence when Dua slapped her palm hard on the table

“Yours or Asfandyar’s?” her lips sealed shut. “I warned you, didn’t I? But you-”

“Asfand wouldn’t have let me get married anyway Hadi. What’s the point in discussing it?”

“Why did you involve Sarim to begin with?” Her fists clenched and she glared at the wall across her like it was Haider. “Let them deal with Asfandyar. If you intervened, they could get suspicious of you-”

“Are you going to help me or not?” There was a long pause on the line. “You know it is nothing for me to find out about the truth behind those explosions. And we both know Asfand is not stupid to leave a track back to him. Sarim is making it personal.” There was another pregnant pause on the line. “Asfand cannot get caught Hadi. Not now. I didn’t go through all that again to lose in the end.”

“Fine!” Haider caved in with a sigh. “I’ll get to it.” Dua leaned in her seat with an inaudible sigh. “Just be very careful Dua. I can only get Sarim off your tracks officially.”

“I know and I appreciate it.” Haider just hummed in response. “Let me know.” With that she disconnected the call and pinched the bridge of her nose tiredly. “Forget the meeting. Get the papers ready to overtake that I.T Company. We need to add a mirage.”

“We haven’t checked them thoroughly yet.”

“Its military intelligence we are talking about and I want one string in my hand without being detected. Increase the price if needed but make Rizwan succumb to our terms.”

“Yes.” Xian nodded and left Aya with Dua.

“We might need to accelerate the process as well Aya but first, we need to see what actually happened that night. Sit.” Dua commanded Ayn to open files on Ismael’s deployment.

“Are you sure about this?” Aya was not. “We need to add one more IP before infiltrating military internals again.” Aya couldn’t get why Dua was ready to imperil so much for that man whom she was aiming to destroy herself in the end.

“We will see when it comes to that.” Dua watched the files load on the glass screen. “For now, we need to know what we might be dealing with in near future. Are you done with implanting those proofs at Khan’s farms?”

“Yes.” Dua nodded silently and both directed their attentions to the files Ayn opened. “What makes you so sure that it isn’t Asfandyar Sherzai?” Aya inquired after watching the file on remnants of explosives.

“He is a Sherzai Aya. And Sherzai are not even loyal to their own blood.” Dua closed all the files once she was done. “Get a copy of it and see what you can find. You will know what I mean.” Aya stood up to leave. “You might have to go south but do it as quickly as possible. I don’t want to keep my bait lay in wait to be devoured by an eager prey.”

********

Dua came downstairs after freshening up and lounged in the main hall. There was still half an hour to dinner and she was bored of sitting in their room. It reminded her of Asfand and that was the last thought Dua wanted to have in the moment.

It has been ten days but there were no signs of his return. She didn’t even know for what reasons he left for Singapore. He kept it strictly confidential. She could have found out easily but she refrained from doing it. To keep his suspicion on her minimum. There was enough surprises waiting for him and she didn’t want to add another to his list.

Dua slumped in the soft couch and leaned against the headrest after tucking her legs up. She was going through the reports Aya sent her. The job was done the same day. They didn’t have to do much. Asfand already knew what was going on and as she expected, it was not him. Or it could be that he wiped the proofs clean off his back. But whatever the reason, things were cooled down.

Her head shot up from her phone when multiple vehicles stopped in the driveway. Her heart jumped a little upon hearing the heavy footsteps approaching the central hall and it almost stopped when her eyes landed on the tall frame of her husband.

Asfand was on a call when he entered. His eyes landed on his wife and he stopped dead in his tracks. For a minute, they didn’t move or looked away from each other. They could feel their heartbeats ringing in their ears, turning them deaf against every other thing. Both were having thoughts of their own, poisoning their hearts and minds.

“I’ll call you later” Dua looked away first. She could feel him coming towards her at leisure pace. Her heart turned wilder and breathing quickened in pace when his shoes came in her line of vision. He was standing so close. And his scent mixed with his cologne was all around her. “Not even going to say hi?” Dua looked up when Asfand leaned over her. Their breaths mingled and their faces were only inch apart. “What a rude wife.”

“You didn’t say proper good-bye.” She matched his stare head on. “What a rude husband.” Asfand smirked at her reply. “You should mind your actions a little. What will your servants say if they saw you like this?”

“Like I care?” Dua got up willingly when he grabbed her arm and pulled her towards him. Encircling her waist, he pressed her to him and hummed in satisfaction. Damn you woman. Asfand inhaled her intoxicating scent and basked in her softness and warmth. How much you are going to pay for what you did Dua. You have no idea. “Missed me?” He whispered in her neck and skimmed his nose over the length of it.

“Hardly” His grip on her waist became painful but Dua showed no response to it.

“Of course” Asfand scoffed bitterly and let her go abruptly. Dua could sense something was off. She could feel it when he entered the mansion. There was something different about Asfand. Something dangerous. That look in his eyes, it was of pure hatred and disgust towards her.

“Good evening sir and welcome back.” Both turned when Ida approached them. “I had no idea you were returning tonight.” Asfand just loosened his tie while watching Dua with an impenetrable look. “Should I serve your dinner as well?”

“Sure.” Asfand left them alone and Dua watched his back with a frown. He was behaving hot/cold which was unnerving her in many ways.

“Is everything alright Young miss? He wasn’t looking in best of his moods.” Dua just hummed in response and went to the dining room with Ida. She could feel it too.

It was a call before storm.

Asfand came back shortly and sat in his chair silently. He didn’t even spare a single gaze towards his wife who had her undivided attention on him. Dua looked him from head to toe with a raised brow. He changed into a V-neck shirt and black sweatpants. The shirt was fit against his toned muscles, stretching against them whenever he moved. His tousled hair were making him look younger. His stubble needed trimming but still looked good. She hasn’t seen him in casual clothes much. He was barely home and in room, he slept without a shirt. It was first time she saw him in something other than suit. Right now, he looked less intimidating and more boyish. The only constant thing was his scowl that never relaxed. Even when he sleeps too.

Her little moment of observation was interrupted when Ida and Shafiq brought their dinner. Shafiq greeted Asfand politely to which he gave a curt nod and grunt. They stood back when the dinner was served and waited for them to proceed.

Dua gave Asfand one more look and reached for the bowl. And right then, Asfand reached for the same bowl as well. Their heads shot towards each other when their hands touched and both held an unbreakable eye-lock that made their attendants cough and look away in embarrassment.

“We should let them eat in peace” Ida whispered to Shafiq who agreed eagerly. Giving a small smile towards the couple, Ida walked out with Shafiq. She was amused by how much they were engrossed in each other that they didn’t even notice them move or leave. It gave her a hope but she didn’t want to feed it because she knew what kind of fate awaited these two.

Dua pushed the bowl towards him reluctantly. Asfand kept looking at her with his piercing green eyes but not even once she looked up or acknowledged his attention. It was her turn to return the favor and Asfand made no comment on it. They ate in complete silence afterwards. Only the sound of their cutlery could be heard and nothing else.

That’s how empty their marriage was. They might be together but it was near to nothing. Their bodies, hearts, minds and souls refused to acknowledge and accept each other. Their hate, anger and ego ruled their actions and reactions.

They were using each other for their own ulterior motives and not even once their conscience rebuked them about how they were disrespecting the sacred relationship between them.

Be it however, they were husband and wife but all they see each other were as pawns to this dangerous game. Instead of completing each other, they were out to finish each other off. It was just a show for them but they didn’t know how much it was going to cost them in future.

After all, marriages based on such hollowness never lasted long.

It crumbled with the pillars holding it.

********

It was almost midnight but Asfand didn’t return to their room. He was too distracted. Something was definitely up and Dua knew it was related to her. He never behaved this aloof with her before. And he didn’t even jump her like he used to which only concreted her doubts.

Asfand was avoiding Dua.

But she was going to make it impossible for him.

Dua grabbed the pendant he gave her and got up. All the servants retired for the night and guards were not allowed to enter their residential part. Dua was in her black satin night-gown and she knew what it could do. What she could do to her husband. A smirk appeared graced her lips and she threw the towel away before making her way out of their room and towards his study.

It was dangerous move but she was willing to raise the stakes.

She observed every wall under dim lights. The night was calm and quiet but that was the most dangerous part of it. The serenity. It was masking the chaos that lay in wait.

Dua stopped outside the huge mahogany doors. Her hand raised to knock but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Part of her was scared to be alone with Asfand right now. She didn’t know yet the extent of danger he could go to. Her eyes went to her wrist and she groaned in apprehension. She left her watch behind.

But the deed was already done.

She rapped on the door twice and twisted the knob without even waiting for his permission. Her eyes scanned the dimly lit room as she moved inside. It was classy.

The man does have a taste above average or normal.

There were high book shelves along three walls with huge windows in between and a curved staircase that led to floor above. Everything was in dark shade of wood with pastel touch.

Dua was so engrossed in her observing that she didn’t notice the hawk like eyes of her husband hooked on her every move and expression in the darkness. His eyes turned dark with lust and desire while watching her in nothing but a measly nightdress. It was leaving nothing to his imagination. Her musky scent was all over the place. It was making him hard and arousing him more.

Ten days he lived without touching her or any other women. Ten fucking days of celibacy. And just a mere glance at her was making him go wild and do every kind of shit to her. But he was restraining himself. She had to waltz in here like that when I am already on the verge of losing my sanity.

“What brings you here?” Dua turned abruptly and watched him sitting in complete darkness by his table. “It’s late.” His voice was raspy and it gave Dua a tingly feeling. She could feel his eyes boring in her even when she couldn’t see him properly. Goosebumps rose on her skin at the feel of his eyes roaming and leeching off her lecherously. She felt hot and bothered. But, in different kind of way.

“Then what are you doing here?” She took tentative steps towards him and watched his shoulders tense at her approach. “Aren’t you tired?”

“I have work” Dua scoffed lowly and crossed her arms, purposely lifting her breasts to tease him more. And got the desired reaction in return. “Dua!”

“You work in dark?” She leaned over the table and flicked the lamp on. Her heart jumped to her throat when Asfand grabbed her hand on the switch and forced her to stay in same position. His now dark eyes darted towards her cleavage, her bent position was allowing him to feast on. He showed no reservation towards his shameless action. “Asfand!”

“Come here” He tugged at her hand. His voice held authority and she complied silently. When Dua was in his reach, Asfand pulled her in his lap. A low growl rumbled in his chest when her plump ass came in contact with his hard appendage. “Stay put”

Dua watched Asfand wide-eyed when he grabbed her hips and held her in place. A soft gasp escaped her lips as well when she felt his erection poke through her thin nightgown. If not for the hardening of his eyes and locking of his jaw, Dua might have believed he was unaffected.

“What have you been doing behind my back janaan?” She tried not to squirm when Asfand breathed in her neck and kissed behind her ear.

“Like you don’t know” Dua pushed at his chest to steady herself against him. “Don’t try to play smart husband.” Asfand mused at her angry expressions when she raised the pendent for him. “I am here to return it. It’s not needed.”

“You wound me” Asfand held Dua tight when she tried to get up. “I got it especially for you.”

“I know” Dua looked directly in his alluring green eyes. “To keep check of my activities. You even left your right hand behind. Who is wounding whom?” Asfand just hummed while twirling her damp hair around his fingers. “That much distrust?”

“Shouldn’t it be?” he countered calmly and watched her carefully. “You made a deal with Khan. Why?”

“Business” Dua winced when Asfand tugged at her hair. “Are you afraid?”

“Of whom? Your revenge?” her lips sealed tight at his cold remark. “You think so low of me but I am not going to bound you in anyway. You are free to do as you please janaan."

“Glad to know” Dua pushed free of his hold and got up but Asfand caught her wrist before she could walk away. She didn’t react when Asfand pulled her back against him. His arms went around her in a tight hold and he buried his head in her neck with a low hum. “For being avoiding me so deliberately before, you sure are acting cozier than necessary.” She looked him over her shoulder. “Bipolar much?”

“Bothered much?” Asfand turned her in his arms and smirked at her angry pout. Asfand took the pendant and clasped it around her neck with teasing kisses. “Everything is acceptable.” He pulled her hair back gently by a fistful of them. “Everything” A rage took over his eyes within a blink. Asfand cupped her jaw roughly and pulled her face close.

“Asfand!” Dua grabbed his wrist when he pulled on her hair hard. “Leav-”

“Everything but not betrayal.” He hissed against her mouth before biting hard on her lower lip. “Don’t ever try to play me Dua because I won’t hesitate to kill you for it.”

His mouth claimed hers in a hard punishing kiss. Dua thrashed in his hold but he cut all of her escape routes. Dua could feel the rustic taste of her own blood through his tongue. Asfand grabbed her butt-cheeks roughly and drew painful whimpers from her as he plundered her mouth brutally. He pushed her on his table and pinned her hands above her head with one hand and let other roam down her body.

“You need to be punished” Asfand growled and parted her legs wide. Her breath hitched when her nightgown rode up to her underwear and his hand skimmed over her exposed legs. Travelling slowly towards her core. “So that you won’t even think of doing anything you shouldn’t be doing.”

“No!” Her eyes widened when she saw that hungry animalistic look in his eyes. “Asfand! Don’t” Her body shook with uncontrolled tremors when his hand rested on the apex between her legs. “Stop!” She tried to clench her thighs but he restricted the action by standing in between them.

Please! No. Stop

Her breathing turned shallow when she recalled that night. The nightmares it brought that permanently scarred her for life. She could still see it, feel it and hear everything. The pain and the screams that painted the sky.

Beg for me more sweetheart. It makes me want to fuck you hard.

Asfand stopped and looked at Dua with a frown. Her body turned cold and she was looking at the ceiling with petrified eyes. If not for the slight jerks that shook her frame, he would have thought she had a seizure. “Dua?” Asfand cupped her cheek but she didn’t blink. “Dua?” he patted her cheeks softly but all that left her plush lips was a low whimper. “Look at me-”

“No! Please, no!” A blood curdling scream left her mouth and she began thrashing wildly. “Don’t touch. No”

“Dua!” Asfand pulled her up and caged her shaking frame in his arms. What the fuck is going on? “Look at me. Hey! I said look at me Dua.” But she was not here. She was reliving the nightmare that made her fear the touch of a male.

“Help!” Asfand was stunned when tears flew freely down her cheeks. Her screams were so painful that he could feel it pierce his very being. “Please! Help-”

“Dua!” Her jerked her roughly and held her tight. “It’s me.” her eyes connected with his and she stopped. “It’s me. Asfand.” Her cries turned to hiccups and finally reduced to low sniffs. Asfand cupped her cheek again and a dark scowl marred his features when she flinched at his touch. “What happened to you?” He forced her chin up and watched her lower lip tremble. “Du-” She swayed in his arms, her eyelids drooped and head rolled back.

“Dua!” Asfand caught her against him in time when she went limp. He knew what it was. Trauma. “Fuck!” He carried her in his arms and took her back to their room. His mind kept reeling back to how she reacted to his touch.

To how she always reacted to his touch.

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