Dua tapped on the file with her index finger while looking at the i-pad. On it, various articles were open. Articles about one of the most successful young business conglomerate. Articles about a man who created an empire out of nothing.
Articles about Asfandyar Sherzai.
Dua read carefully through each. There were not just one or two articles about the man. His name was full of many curiosities. From being the youngest and most powerful business tycoon to the most eligible bachelor, Asfandyar was the eye-candy of many.
Dua leaned back in her chair with a soft hum. There was another candid picture of Asfand in the one she was reading and hell would freeze over before she admit that he looked anything but titillating.
Dressed in a navy blue suit with one hand tucked inside his pant pocket, he was standing tall and proud while holding phone to his ear. Though his eyes were covered in shades, Dua could still feel his soul piercing gaze. And it made her heart beat a little faster.
This man is something through and through.
Her fingers unconsciously touched the screen as she reminisced their conversation from that night.
“I want you to destroy the kingdom you built with your own hands.”
Asfand watched her calmly. Not a single creased marred his forehead and his impassiveness made her slightly uneasy. He finally turned the chair in her direction and before Dua could have moved back, he pulled her between his legs and trapped her against him by encircling her waist.
“Tempting offer janaan.” He brushed her hair back with a low hum. “But I will have to decline it unfortunately.” Dua tried to stand up straight but Asfand didn’t let her and held her more tightly. “As much as it delight me that my wife wants to give me what I desire, I can’t take it.” He smirked at her silent anger. “I am a man love and I intend to do things my own way.”
“Aren’t you doing that already?” Asfand cocked one brow in response. “You think I don’t know what role I play in this game that you are playing individually? I am not stupid dear husband.”
“I never pegged you as one dear wife” Asfand brushed his nose with hers, “but that doesn’t mean there are no rules. We might be playing differently but we have common foes. Yes, you are my queen and I want you to remove certain pieces off the board, but you completely mistook my play.”
“You might be wiping them clean off my slate and making me take over their assets with ease, but that is not what I am playing at. You think you have understood but you are far from it janaan.” He closed the file and extended it for her. “Though I appreciate your consideration for my well-being, but I would like to take my gratitude when I pleased.”
“You will regret this decision.”
“Hardly” Asfand chuckled deeply. “These lands and factories mean nothing to me. I can raise hundreds of these within a blink.” Dua had no doubt about it. “What I have in my mind is far greater Ms. Sahi.” His gaze bore deep within her soul. “I will claim my price when I feel the need to, you can count on it. But, if you really insist for now” He pulled the tray towards him, “I will take this and something sweet.”
Asfand pulled her head forward and captured her lips in an intense kiss. For a few seconds, Dua watched his slowly closing eyes with her wide ones until his mouth coaxed her into his bidding.
He held her neck firmly with one hand and rubbed soothing circles on her lower back with other. Dua gasped when those circles lowered on their course and she couldn’t help but squirm in his hold.
She was still scared of his closure and touch yet her body could not deny him. Not when he had a way of doing things to her. Dua couldn’t deny this need, this pull she felt whenever Asfand held or touched her intimately. It was scary yet enthralling and she couldn’t decide which end to hold.
Her body burnt and ached every time. Like she was deprived of something necessary. She couldn’t understand the thirst his touch invoked in her. It was something she never felt before and every time he came close to her like this, she became more tangled in the web of desires.
Her hands fisted the collar of his shirt when his tongue plunged deeper in her mouth and despite the angry protests of her sanity, her body leaned into his against her consent.
“I have my plans janaan” he whispered against her swollen lips seductively after kissing the hell out of them. He was pecking them nonstop while she breathed harshly against him. “I don’t keep a favor” Asfand kissed his way down her neck and assaulted it with his tongue, teeth and lips. “I always pay my price as well as claim my right.” Asfand groaned when Dua moaned.
“You will know very soon.”
Dua picked the i-pad to have a better look at his face. “I was indeed wrong about you in so many ways.” She leaned back in her chair again when few incidents flashed through her memory.
Forcing her to think about this man against her will.
Her lips twitched in a small smile. What goes up in his head all the time? But as soon as the thought came, her smile fell. Dua slapped the i-pad back on the table rather roughly and sat up straight. What is wrong with me? She was glaring at the same picture murderously. The face which she found prepossessing moments ago was now seeming to be the most hideous and unsightly.
“One act can never change who a person really is” Dua whispered to herself. “It cannot wash away the sins you committed.” A brief knock on the door broke her chain of thoughts and Xian entered with Aya.
“And you refused?” Asfand watched Safan lazily. He was screaming at every part for past hour. “Why would you even do that? Have you any idea how much trouble it would have saved us? Dude!” Safan chuckled dryly at his stoic expressions. “Your wife literally and I mean, literally served you every fucking thing on a silver platter. Why didn’t you take it?”
“I didn’t feel like it.” Asfand replied nonchalantly. Safan watched him befuddled. He was now sure his asshole of friend had lost his marbles. “What?”
“You mean it?” Asfand continued spinning paper-weight under his fingers. “You said you wanted her to get all those fucking assets to you and now that she actually did, you didn’t feel like taking it? What the fuck are you playing at?”
“Can you calm the fuck down Safan? Your yelling is giving me a headache.” Safan slumped back in the couch and loosened his tie in frustration. “You think it is so easy to get hold of those assets? Those bastards made a double will of everything. One which we knew and other which no one knew. And my wife got hold of them under her name. How do you justify this?”
“What does it matter to us? Those old geezers are dead. Yusuf is in jail under the charge of their murder, Azfar is trapped in all the mud his son brought to his name and your uncle.” Asfand looked at Safan solemnly. “We both know he is nothing without them. Your coast is clear and when the opportunity to take everything in your control landed by your feet, you kicked it away. Now that bullshit doesn’t make sense to me in any way.”
“Do you think that woman who hate me with everything she got, will be willing to give me everything I want?” Asfand turned his chair and leaned over his desk with palms flat on its surface. “Without any price in return?”
“What are you trying to get at?”
“She is D. Almas Sahi. A woman who is here for blood.”
“I have my own price to pay Safan” Asfand smirked cynically. “And I assure you, I’m down her list somewhere.” Safan sighed tiredly. “I don’t know what she wanted to play at, by being so generous towards the man she hate so willfully, but I’m sure it would be quite interesting.”
Asfand still remembered what transpired between them. The memory was so vivid. He wasn’t planning on kissing her but when he saw those fucking eyes, he lost it.
She was being so responsive to me.
And it only made him lose his control more. It was not enough for him but he held himself back. Only he knew how much it took for him to pull away from the sin that was only his. Yet, he could not indulge in it.
“What do you want to do now?” Asfand hummed thoughtfully. “You know what those assets mean Asfand. They are not just a piece of property. You need them to concrete your rule. You need those lands to establish your trade route from Makran. Army is the only nuisance right now and you know once you had those lands of Jalal, they would be completely off your back.”
“That bastard was the silent one but he was the smartest one as well. He bought those lands at all the right places. They fell off the army and government’s grid and made the perfect hideout and route for his illegal business.” Asfand listened silently. “And that oil refinery, you know how much worth that single plant holds and how much government want it. You will have them in the palm of your hand once you got hold of it.”
“Why are you dictating out the obvious to me Safan?”
“Because it seems like you keep forgetting what you really want. You need that oil refinery and you need those fucking lands for your Gwadar project.” Asfand chuckled lowly. “What is going in your head right now?”
“Right now” Asfand stood up and fixed his suit. “I need a pending visit to claim a pending price from a certain politician.” For attacking his Dua. Safan followed Asfand out of his office. The moment they stepped out of elevator, five guards rounded Asfand and followed him to their cars. The driver opened the door and Asfand got inside with Safan.
“He messed with the wrong door and he needs to learn where to put his fucking hand.”
Dua looked at the man before her with amused eyes. He looked anything like the man she remembered. The once arrogant and proud Yusuf Khan was now looking old and worn out. His shoulders were hunched, frame looked thin and there were dark circle under his eyes. The eyes that used to look down on everything and everyone.
Time was really an amazing thing. It could change a person and situation from high to low within a blink.
“You look sick Mr. Khan. Are they not serving you well?” He smiled weakly. “I made a specific request to the higher ups and it cost me quite a fortune. But seeing you in such a vulnerable state is making me think if I have to talk with them.”
“You don’t need to go to extra lengths Ms. Sahi.” Yusuf coughed furiously. “You are already doing plenty for me. It’s just that my health is not cooperating these days.” Dua watched him silently. You have no idea how much more I will be doing to you Yusuf Khan. “What about my bail? You said you will get me out but it’s been a month already.”
“I am doing what I can Mr. Khan but someone is making your release very complicated.” Yusuf frowned. “I’m sure you will be very familiar with the name Azfar Baig. He is quite a renowned politician and a very powerful one.” Dua measured his expressions carefully. “He has testified against you.”
“This is nonsense” Yusuf stood up abruptly. “This is not possible. He cannot betray me like that. He is my friend. You might be mistaken Ms. Sahi.”
“I pity you Mr. Khan and I pity your trust.” Dua looked towards the door of his cell when Xian entered with a file and laptop. “Please, sit down. There is something you need to know and I am sure your health might not allow you to bear the shock while you stand.” Yusuf sat back in the chair when Xian opened the laptop before him.
“Ismael Malik was a friend of yours as well?” Yusuf looked at her perplexed. “I did some digging and I came to know that he was murdered brutally while he was being shifted to another jail. His body was...mutilated?” Dua asked suggestively. “And each of you was sent a piece of his body in some warning? Correct me if I am wrong?”
“How do you know this?” How fun it is to play with mind? “We nev-we never mentioned it to anyone. Then how?”
“You never mentioned it Mr. Khan. Others were not part of this exception. Especially Azfar Baig and Afroz Sherzai.” Xian passed Yusuf a pair of earphones. “As I said, it is costing me quite a fortune but it is worth every penny. I’m sure you would like to hear the truth.” Yusuf plugged the earphones in his ears and listened quietly.
“Did you get the same?” Yusuf recognized the voice immediately.
“You too?” Azfar asked in astonishment and ordered his servants to clear the place. “What are we to do Afroz?”
“Calm down Azfar. Panicking won’t help. Now listen to me very carefully. This is not something we can let anybody know. Especially the police. Once they knew, army will be knocking at our doors and you know what trouble that means.”
“What do you intend to do?” There was a pause on the line. “Afroz?”
“Someone will have to take the blame.” Yusuf fisted his hands upon hearing those words. “Our lives carry too many secrets to be wasted just like that. Someone will have to be our scapegoat.”
“Are you out of your mind?” Azfar bellowed from the other line. “Do you even know what this mean? And what if they found out? There is too much ris-”
“And what if everyone agree on one name. I’m sure no one would want to end up in jail or better, executed.”
“Who do you have in mind?” Another pause.
“Yusuf” The laptop crashed against the wall and fell to the floor in pieces.
“They played me. They fucking played me.” Yusuf got up and kicked his chair back. “I did everything they asked me. I stood by them through their evil deeds and this is how they repay me. I will destroy them. I will fucking kill them with my own hands. They think they are everything?” Yusuf sneered viciously. “They don’t know they will bleed themselves if they bite their own hand.” Dua smirked at the outcome of such a small cracker.
“Sit down Mr. Khan” Yusuf looked at her in bewilderment. He completely forgot about Dua in his anger. “I am not the enemy. If I were, I wouldn’t be getting you proof over the safety of my life. Now please, sit down. We need to talk.” Xian straightened his chair and pushed it towards him. Dua twisted the ring on her index finger when he finally sat down and looked at her.
“I might not completely understand your situation but I understand your anger. We might have a common foe.” Dua smiled at his wariness. “I am talking about Azfar Baig. I don’t know why but he is hell bent on killing me for some reasons. That elevator crash for whom you were suspected and arrested, it was also his doing. A few days ago, he came by my office to forewarn me of the death that could befall me any time.”
“What do you want me to do Ms. Sahi?” Dua smiled and stood up.
“Exactly what he did to you.”
“It didn’t take much to convince. He was already wasted.” Dua was on a call with Haider when she got out of the car. “You don’t need to follow me inside.” Xian stopped and stepped back. “Don’t worry about things here, I have them under control. Get in touch with Mikhailov and tell him to contact Azfar. He will set the wheel in motion for you.” Xian nodded and Dua made a beeline towards their room after he left. Fortunately, there was no Asfand in sight.
“They will be keeping their eyes on you Dee. You ought to be more careful than before.” Dua sat on the bed and removed her heels. “Xian told me about the army issue. You don’t have to worry. I’ll handle things at that end.”
“I don’t have a doubt about it.” Haider hummed in response. “You be careful Haider. They will strike and won’t spare a single end. Don’t let Amber, Rayan and Dar-jee get hurt.”
“I won’t” Dua nodded absentmindedly, “Let me know.” They disconnected the call and Dua leaned back with a sigh. For a few seconds, she just sat there and looked around the room.
It was full of his essence and presence and the thought irked Dua unnecessarily. She stood up and stormed towards the bathroom at rather angry pace. Dua wanted to get rid of his thoughts that were plaguing her mind more than needed and she was sure a long bath was the best course of action.
A much needed long bath.
Except that it didn’t work the way she wanted.
Once Dua changed into comfortable clothes, she left the room hurriedly. She couldn’t stay there. Not when everything forced her to think of Asfand.
“What is wrong with me really?” Dua couldn’t understand why she couldn’t stop her brain from wandering back to him. “I need to get my head clear-”
“Dua bibi?” The maid was looking her oddly. “Noor Bi is calling you in back garden.”
“Is she alone?” She nodded. “Tell Ida to prepare me a cup of coffee and bring it there.” The maid left and Dua went to meet Noor Bi. She was sitting alone on the steps to the garden while gazing at the night sky.
“Why are you sitting all by yourself?” Noor Bi smiled when Dua bowed her head. She patted her affectionately and made her sit next to her. “Where is Ushna? And why are you sitting so uncomfortably?”
“Because it gives the best view.” Noor Bi winked her way. “Ushna is sleeping” Dua chuckled when Noor Bi rolled her eyes like a child. “That girl can sleep for lifetime if given a chance. I don’t know how she is never tired. She is young. She should be full of life yet here she is, giving competition to pandas.” Noor Bi shook her head and smiled at Dua. “How was your day?”
“It was good. How was your day?”
“Same as usual.” Dua smiled a small smile. “It’s beautiful tonight, isn’t it?” Noor Bi sighed while looking at the sky. Particularly the moon. Dua noticed the faraway look in her eyes.
“Good evening young miss” Dua took the cup from Ida. “What about dinner?”
“Have you eaten Noor Bi?” She shook her head in denial. “Why?” Dua looked at Ida in question.
“She insist on eating with you and sir” Dua sighed inwardly. This woman was being too hopeful over a barren land. “I’ll get to the preparations. I’m sure sir will be back soon.” Dua nodded and Ida left them alone.
“You should not wait on us Noor Bi. You know how busy our schedules can get. Don’t jeopardize your health over us.”
“Are you being a mini version of Asfand right now?” Dua blinked in surprise and Noor Bi chuckled heartily. “I’m just messing with you though you will look an adorable version of him.” She looked behind her and her smile brightened further. “Ah! Speak of the devil that will live hundred years.” Dua didn’t need to look to confirm. It was him alright.
“Aslam-u-alaikum!” Asfand bent his head in respect and Noor Bi patted it as always.
“Walaikum-salam, mera bacha. How was your day? Come sit with me.” Asfand sat next to her on the opposite side and looked at Dua. She looked everywhere but him and he was very much aware of it.
“It was good.” Asfand replied politely. “Why are you sitting here?” He looked up and then back at her. “Let me guess, you are moon gazing again.”
“Don’t make it sound like a crime. I love moon.” Asfand shook his head at her childishness. “Well, I don’t expect much from you. What do you know about romance?”
“And you know everything about it?” Asfand teased Noor Bi. “What do you even see in that piece of rock? It doesn’t even shine on its own. That light is borrowed.” Dua was amused by their interaction. She couldn’t believe how pragmatic he was. No emotion at all.
“Have you ever gazed at it?” Noor Bi countered. “You won’t know Mr. Asfandyar Sherzai. Not until you have someone you miss badly.”
“What?” Dua questioned. “What does missing someone have to do with moon gazing?” Noor Bi smiled and looked at moon in utter longing. It was glowing to it’s full bloom.
“You won’t understand until you feel it beta.” Asfand stood up and helped Noor Bi as well. Dua followed behind them closely and looked at the sky one more time. “One day, this moon will remind you of this moment.” Noor Bi looked at them knowingly.
“And then, you will understand what I really mean.”