Shackled Exemption

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CHAPTER 1

Panting....

That was what could be heard in the dead silence of this deadly night as two feeble legs tried to carry the weight of a fragile body. The heavy red bridal dress she was forced to wear weighed more than what her frail body could take.

These were not clothes. These were shroud to her funeral.

She kept pushing herself despite the weakness and dizziness that started to cloud her mind and eyes. She needed to escape before they catch up and drag her back to the same hell she was trying to ditch.

“She went that way. Hurry! We cannot let her cross the border. If she did then God forbid, what is waiting for us.” Their voices sent a chill of fresh fear down her spine because she knew what her incarceration will bring. So, she pushed herself to the last of her vehemence.

The night was silent but the terror it bore, was not.

Her feeble frame leaned against the thick trunk of the tree after running for so long. She tried to catch her breath and give her bleeding feet rest. She knew she could not afford it but it was too much for her debilitated state. She could still hear those beastly hounds barking in the distant and it won’t take long for them to find her trail again.

A second of delay was step back to that purgatory and she would rather cut her own throat open right now than let them have her.

No more.

“There she is” the moment she heard them, she broke into a sprint. They were close. They were catching up. Tears blurred her vision. She stumbled and sharp things beneath her bare feet tore through her tender flesh but she didn’t stop.

I can bear with it but not with what is back there.

This sole thought kept her shriveling hankering and strength intact. The blind hope she was running for, finally showed its glimpse when the outline of city lights came in view. She kept running, forgetting everything but one thing.

I need to get there. I need to cross the line.

Darkness blinded her but she didn’t stop. The world spun but she kept moving. Voices echoed everywhere but she paid no heed to them. All she need to do was, get there.

And get there before they get to her.

Just as the final step of her freedom came in view, a dark shadow blocked her way and loomed over her tiny frame like the angel of death. Her breath hitched, eyes stung and throat began to close upon realizing how treacherously, once again, fate has ditched and dumped her in the mouth of death. Her head spun and she fell back.

No. Please. No. I don’t want to go back.

Every little memory of her nightmares began flashing before her eyes.

“Don’t do this. Leave them. Please! leave my daughters alone.”

The pain was back. Back to claim her once again. They were back. Back to take what was never theirs.

“We told you there was no way out. It was a mistake for you to come back and bring your family to the doom that will be worse than any death.”

Screams echoed the air.

Screams of pain, hurt, sorrow and torture.

Torture that was worse than any death. There was fire everywhere, burning everything. There was blood in the air; its smell choking and gagging.

“Take your sister and run. Don’t look back and don’t think of us. You cannot let them have you.”

“Mama! Papa!”

“Run! You have to run. Don’t let them win. You can never let them win. You will have to live for us. For Mama. For Papa. For me.”

She choked on her sobs. Her voice was strangled in her mouth. Her lungs hurt because of the pressure they felt.

I will die.

That was the only thought swarming her mind as she kept staring at the looming quietus on top of her.

It’s better if I die just now because I cannot survive one more second with this pain that has embedded itself in my soul.

These were the thoughts that kept bouncing back to her from every corner of her fragile mind.

They took it. They took it all away and now, they want to claim it.

I cannot let them. They have taken enough. Not anymore.

They wont get the final coup. I won’t let them.

Her head turned to side when light suddenly blinded her half closed eyes. She was close. She knew she was. If she could not cross that one line, she will cross this one and be united with those whom she was snatched from.

But even in death, it was not their sweet voices she heard but the painful cries. The demon was not ready to let her go. Even if by twisted luck, she slipped, he won’t let her have the peaceful reunion but the Kafkaesque meet that will leave her death to bleed with the exact same thing, she wanted to run away from the most.

“Run! Don’t look back”

“Too bad that the flower got caught in the nest of thrones”

“No! Please. Please. Please”

“You will watch. You will watch your sister become food to my hungry hounds. She will scream. She will beg but you won’t blink. You won’t cry because the more you blinked and shed tears, the more she will become prey to these hungry beasts. She will suffer until there will be nothing left. She will suffer until she will stop breathing.”

“Run! I said run”

“Ammara!”

“Run kidco”

“You need to get away”

“Mama! Papa! Leave them alone. Don’t do this.”

“Run!”

“DUA!”

***********

Cold sweat broke through her as she woke up, startled. Her breathing was heavy and heartbeat out of place. She looked at the dial of her alarm with a deep groan. Four-forty five in the morning. Throwing the blankets off, she got up and went straight to her walk-in closet with attached bathroom. After gearing up and setting the timer on her watch, she left her room and came out of her villa. The moment her feet hit the pavement, she began running towards the track. Her muscles warmed and began adjusting to the increasing speed. She reached the marked spot on dot as always and made her way slowly to the precipice. She could see the sun slowly rising over the horizon, breaking another chain of darkness and taking over the sky in all its glory. She stood there, watching until it was time to go back.

And get ready for the day.

It was a ritual she has been following for past seven years.

She got dressed in her business suit after shower. Color of choice; black. Donned her watch, diamond studs and ring after wearing her Louboutin and came downstairs.

“Good morning” Her head maid, Ida, greeted and placed the breakfast in front of her with two newspapers. It was also a ritual she has been following without ever needed to be reminded again. Ida was not only the head of housekeeping but her cook as well and has been in service of her owner for as long as she can remember.

It was yet another fine day. She sat by the huge glass window that displayed the river and the city across it. She sipped her coffee while going through the newspapers one by one and placed them down when Xian arrived on time, just like always.

“It has been done” he bowed to her, “And you have been asked to call back as soon as you can find time.”

“Get the car ready” He left after a slight bow and no later than he did, she was on her way out as well. The car was waiting like always before she even stepped out of the main entrance. Xian opened the door and waited for her to be seated. Closing the door, he went to the driver’s seat, got in and drove off with two black cars following them closely. His eyes were focused on the road as he drove towards main city, crowded by tall skyscrapers among which one belonged to his employer.

“Status” She didn’t need to repeat anything twice to those who work for her from the very beginning. Her one word or a mere gesture and they know what to do. There are not many whom she trust.

And Xian is one of those few.

He does everything she bid for, without blinking.

“The reports have been delivered and the final word will reach as expected.” She got busy with her i-pad, going through the information she needed. Once done, she placed it on the seat and gazed out through the tinted glass.

I am one step ahead with two steps back.

The moment the car stopped in front of one of the tallest buildings of Manhattan, Xian was out and by her side. She stepped out when he opened the door and her assistant came rushing along with three guards that worked directly under Xian. Sharlene began briefing her boss on the schedule of the busy day ahead as they made their way to her floor. Employees greeted her and she gave a nod to each of them as she walked by.

“We had another call from Asphalt Inc. Their CEO wants to meet you in person. They requested to reschedule the meeting as per your wish.”

“Of course, they do” Why won’t they? “They are asking for a merger with the reputation they have and this is the attitude they bear.”

“It is not their main company but an extension. There has been many rumors but no solid evidence to support the cases they are charged with. They said their CEO is arriving soon and will deal with all the chaos himself. He is a brutal businessman and is known for not trusting even his most faithful.”

“We will see when he comes but for now, no need to respond. I don’t deal with loss.” Sharlene nodded and carried on with her notes. The elevator dinged and they stepped out at her office floor. “Clear the slots around four to six and make call to the NY Times. Tell them, they can have that exclusive interview today if they can manage that.” Sharlene got to work once her boss entered her office with Xian.

“What happened to what I asked?” She sat behind her cherry wood table and eyed him carefully over her clasped hands.

“You will have it by night.” She leaned back in her chair and turned it slightly to look out through huge glass window. She gazed at the equally tall buildings surrounding hers. Not enough.

“And the progress?” She twisted the ring on her finger which always weighed tons to her.

“It is about to reach its final phase.”

“We rattled them enough that they are beginning to come out of their lair? Fair enough but it is far from enough. Just make sure the chain is not disturbed.” She turned to Xian, “You know what to do.”

Xian was a man of few words but a man who stood by his word. And she doesn’t need him to talk. He just needs to fulfill his duty. Her eyes moved to the chess board on which various pieces were already in move, just queen of black lying in her spot.

I am two steps ahead with one step back.

***********

“This is what we have been proposing with our project in-”

A light rap on the door interrupted her and Sharlene walked in at restless. “I am sorry to interrupt but” she looked towards the reporter, “Mr. Shah is here and he is adamant that you meet him. Now.” She nodded in affirmation but not a minute would have passed after her leave when the doors to her office opened again but this time, with a loud bang.

“Is this behavior expected to be respectful?” She leaned back in her seat, crossing one leg over the other and waited for the gush to pass as he marched around her office like a cyclone.

“I was busy” She tried to reason but who to get to this thick-head idiot. “Will you stop it?” He finally stopped and turned to face her.

“It should be me that should be telling this to you Ms. Sahi” She raised a brow at him when he lounged in front of her across the glass table, on the opposite couch.

Sahi.

D. Almas Sahi. The CEO of FourClove Corporations. Also, one of the most successful multi-billionaire female in this supposedly male dominant world, at the age twenty-four which is a subject of both envy and awe among people of all ages.

And the person who came barging in her office like he owned it, was her foster brother and childhood friend. Mir Haider Ali Shah; owner of Cubestone Enterprises. A friend and rival in business at the same time.

“Come on! Dee. How long has it been? You are seriously in trouble for not picking your calls. Amber is eating my brains day in and day out for not getting in touch with you.” Dee sighed inaudibly and glanced at her wrist watch.

“You have one wife Hadi and you are not able to handle her.” She shook her head at his non-stop complaining. Who will believe how fearsome this guy, sitting in front of her was. If they ever came to know of his other face.

A face that only dark of the night knows.

“Pregnant wife Dee and you don’t even want to know how those hormones work.” She mused at his expressions. Hadi got it good with Amber. That girl is the only one, brave enough to face him. “I don’t know why I love that crazy woman so much.”

“I don’t care either way Hadi. Can I get done with this interview that you interrupted so rudely? I am busy unlike you who got nothing better to do these days but complain about his pregnant wife.” He got up with a scoff and buttoned his suit jacket before fixing his blue eyes on her. The eyes that were holding all the cold cut seriousness in them.

“You need to come and visit Dee. You cannot avoid it.”

***********

“Don’t be mad Am. You know how it is with work these days.” Dee looked at the dark curtain of the night through her window. “All this stress is not good for the baby. I will come visit you first thing this coming weekend. Now relax and rest. I’ll see you soon.” She walked back to the couch and sat after picking the file that was lying on the coffee table.

Night is the veil of secrets that brewed in its shadows.

But this one night will unveil instead of concealing.

Her phone rang the moment she was done reading the last content. She got up and walked back to the window that also served as a door to her attached terrace. A pair of hazel eyes stared back through her reflection as she listened everything that was being conveyed in the silence of the night.

And under the same sky, across the oceans, in the same moment but in different time and space, another pair of eyes, green in color, were staring coldly at the papers that his underling brought to him. He completely ignored the screaming and bone crushing sounds that were bouncing back after colliding fruitlessly with the dark and damp walls that will become not only theirs but their owner’s grave as well.

“Is this the company Atish was talking about? The one with whom he was going to hold the meeting?” His deep, rich voice was full of authority and bone chilling terror that could make a person dig their own grave and bury themselves. Not only the voice but this person’s whole being was the symbol of danger.

A successful businessman by day and a ruthless underworld king by night.

Once he made his mind of the hunt, there is no way out for the prey but to be devoured silently. The more the wings flapped, the more brutally he clipped them. And right now, he was going through the information provided to him by his man on his next prey.

“Yes Sardar. The meeting is forestalled as per your order but it is better to get it done as soon as possible. Their CEO was not happy with the cancellation. That company is one of the top ten successful Corporations of New York. And we need a firm ground if we want to stall the investigation of Asphalt.” Their footsteps echoed through the deserted hallways as they made their way out of the dungeons and back in the living.

The SUV’s were parked, ready and in wait for their owners. Safan briefed him over main chunks of the information on their way to their headquarters because he knew his boss might need them beforehand.

“And this company is in closed connections to the Cubestone Enterprises?” Their vehicles stopped and he stepped out briskly. “Are you sure of this?” he inquired while making his way towards his tall building. His guards were tailing him closely and once he entered, people literally bowed to him in respect and fear like he was some god.

“Yes Boss.” Safan, his right hand man as well as his best friend spoke when he entered his office after him. “They have family ties and are in correspondence with Globaviations as well. Call this sheer luck or the golden opportunity but the situation that Atish fucked up, can be rectified if we can incorporate with them.” He nodded slowly and kept looking at the details the mere black file contained.

The file that was about to bring two catastrophic worlds together. The worlds that would bring nothing but ruination.

“Prepare the next flight to New York. This is no matter that I can let that fucker handle. We will be doomed if he slipped and spilled the beans. I will attend the meeting myself. After all” A sinister smile appeared on his lips while eyeing the documents again.

“It is more appropriate to know the prey in person.”

Where he was preparing himself for his next hunt, she was ready to move that once piece that has been lying dormant in the game for so long.

It was finally time.

“You know what to do” with that she disconnected the call and stepped out. The air was cold, just like the cold reality of life. She stood by the railings and watched the horizon. The city lights were blinking in the distance, across the wide spread of the river like fireflies.

But all this serenity was nothing but a rub to her wounds.

Wounds that never healed but worsened with time.

She clutched the file tightly in her hand as the rage began to consume her from within. Not now. Giving the file one more fleeting glance, she ignited it and watched every last of its edges burn, right in front of her eyes.

I am standing at your door, ready to strike.


Hello my lovelies :)

As per promised, here is the sneak peek. I won’t be starting the updates for a month because my routine is tied up these days. But I will get back as soon as I have adjusted everything. :)

Meanwhile, do let me know how you feel about this new journey that we will be beginning soon. I am eagerly waiting to know your thoughts <3

A little note: It’s not the final draft, might get changed so be a little lenient towards the errors ;p. And I would like to add one more thing. Kindly refrain from reviewing the book for now. Like I said, these are not the final drafts. And a review is not only your opinion but act as a scale on the platform as well :). You can leave as many as you want, once the story commence officially but for now, just let me know of your thoughts through comments <3.

Much love to all of you <3 <3 <3 :*

Will see you all soon <3

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