Shackled Exemption

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CHAPTER 6

Dee was watching the horses run across the dirt ground. She was in Belmont Park, waiting for Haider. The races were starting and Haider wanted to see how his horses were doing. Haider got some really rare, nasty and powerful horses. Dee knew of his love for the creature since early age and it always amused her. Haider was not a regular but he sometimes made his horses participate. Whenever he did, his pets never disappointed him.

He asked Dee to tag along today but she knew better. Haider rarely brought family on tracks. So, his invitation took Dee by surprise. A simple outing with Haider Shah was never simple. They have not reconciled after their last tiff. Chances were high they were going to worsen it further.

“How was the meeting with Mikhailov?” Dee handed the file to Xian and focused her attention on track when Haider’s most prized possession, Trigger, came. Damn Haider for owning such fine breeds. But this Quarter Horse was on a whole different level. Dee once tried to persuade Haider to give her Trigger in exchange for anything but he straight out refused. Dee knew why because nothing could equate to this beauty. Haider cherished it more than anything. Many tried to buy it but no one could shake Haider or more like, no one was brave enough to ask him.

“There is nothing dubious about his activities. He went to Pakistan as per requested and started the project. So far, there is no outside activity. The government checked on him but after legalizing his entire empire, there is no dirt remain to be dealt with. It will take next three months for the company to get functional completely.” Dee nodded in silence.

Three more months.

“Mikhailov will prove himself valuable. We don’t need to trust him but we can rest assure about his intentions. He will never dare to betray us. We provided him a clean exit in return for his loyalty. The seed has been planted. We just have to wait for its roots to start choking its own brothers and sisters.” Dee hummed and turned when Haider reached with Elijah, his most trusted man.

“You are early.” Haider gave Xian a nod and Dee a side hug. “How is he doing?”

“Beastly as always. What do you feed him Hadi? That creature is fearsome.” Haider chuckled and leaned next to Dee while watching his pet run across the track at lightning speed, leaving a cloud of dust behind to blind others. “Damn you. I really wanted him.”

“Of course, you do” Haider glanced at Dee from periphery. “But not every wish of yours can be fulfilled. You need to stop being mulish.”

“Did you just call me a mule?” Dee mused and chuckled, much to Haider’s annoyance. “It was nothing serious and stop scowling. You look like an old man-”

“It’s not funny Dee.” He interrupted sharply. “Asfandyar has been approaching you. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“It was nothing-” Haider gave her a warning glare. “It’s not the first time a male approached or made a move on me Hadi. Why are you bothering too much about this man?”

“Don’t give me this nonchalant act of yours. We both know why I am against your encounters and meetings with him.” Dee pressed her mouth in a tight line. “You are doing everything as you please without a single care to what people close to you will feel. Forget about me and Amber, you didn’t even think about Dar-jee before making these preposterous decisions. It’s all about you now and what you want.”

“Don’t start Hadi. You are tangling things to get to your desired point. What about you? Why did you agree on making a deal with Sherzai? You were stopping me from the merger and you went ahead to collaborate with them behind my back. What should I make of this? He clearly know about Shah’s part in Globaviations. Don’t you know who he is? Where is he from and who he is related to? What will Dar-jee think?”

“I can deal with him and all this better than you Dee. There will be less danger involved-”

“Because you are a man and I am a woman? Is this perception coming from your roots Hadi? Because I clearly remember aunt, uncle and Dar-jee never taught you to look down on women. Is that why you don’t let Amber go anywhere alone and come with you to places like these? What a chauvinist you are Hadi. I am disappointed and I am sure someone else will also be.” Haider’s jaw ticked and twitched because her words hit a nerve.

“You know it is not as you think.” Haider sighed tiredly and faced away from her. “I have a promise to keep Dee. A word to honor. I am just looking out for you and trying to protect you from a fate that is doomed. You are too blinded by your hatred to see anything.”

“I have a promise to fulfill as well Hadi. I cannot go back now. I have come too far. There is no alternative left.”

“We have company” Xian’s interruption made them turn simultaneously.

“What a pleasant surprise Mr. Shah and” Asfand stopped next to Haider with Safan. His eyes roamed across Dee’s frame with something akin to approval and apprehension simultaneously. “Ms. Sahi.”

Dee swept one gaze at the gathering and leaned against the railings. Their men were too alert and ready to act if needed. She wore her Aviators with an inaudible huff and focused back on the galloping horses. But her senses were very much aware of Asfand’s avaricious gaze over her body.

His uncensored attitude was unnerving and enraging Haider as well who was trying his best to act respectful towards this man against his will.

“You can call me Haider. There is no need for formalities outside business grounds.” Haider tried to divert his attention but the man was too hooked on Dee. Haider was amused as well as peeved by his daring attitude. How openly he was leering at his sister without bothering about the consequences. Asfandyar might be powerful but he was so wrong about getting his ways with Dee with him around.

“Likewise. I had no idea you were into tracks and racing Haider.” Dee’s behavior angered Asfand to no extent but there was nothing he could do. Not until she was in his claws. And the mere task was proving itself to be quite onerous. How many times he argued with himself that she was just like every other woman who was playing hard to get. Once she was caught, she will be nothing but a mere puppet of his hands. Asfand tried to make his brain see and reason with logic that there was nothing special about her. That there were countless women, more beautiful and ready to throw themselves at his feet at a mere glance.

But he couldn’t.

There was something hauntingly alluring about D. Sahi that hooked Asfand. There was this dark charm that roused his desire for her even more. The more she resisted him, the stronger his obsession was becoming. He has been pretty decorous so far. If she still refused to bend to his disposition, he will switch to methods he was used to and pleased to use.

D. Sahi might not like them but who cares.

It’s all about his satisfaction and once done, her thoughts that are plaguing his mind in the moment will go away. After all, she is just a pursuit to achieve. An impossible and beautiful pursuit.

“Are you participating?” A horse joined the field with his thunderous voice and lightning speed, catching up to Trigger within minutes. Haider and Dee were surprised to see a dark bay Thoroughbred. He was on par with Haider’s black Quarter Horse.

And Asfand was pleased to see a reaction from Dee. He could tell she was impressed. If only she wasn’t wearing those shades. He mused while watching her keenly.

“That horse-”

“Is mine Haider. His name is Axel. You might know of him. He is a Kentucky Derby racer.”

“That horse belongs to you?” Asfand smirked in response to his surprised inquisition. “I could have never known.”

“I always get the best in life Haider. I am used to having what I want.” Asfand looked at Dee. “I like bold, wild, intelligent, strong and beautiful creatures. It cost a lot to bend and tame them to my will but that is the fun part.” Asfand did notice how Dee was twiddling the ring on her index finger. He noticed this action of hers the first time they met. It was not a female design and was more like an antique family heirloom. Its size was altered to fit her delicate finger. “But this one is my prized possession now.”

Haider was getting irked by his unfaltering gaze and he knew Xian was flurried as well. If he knew this man was coming, he wouldn’t have invited Dee. Haider knew Dee was not showing it but she was not feeling at ease with Asfand’s presence. The mere gesture of her twisting the ring was enough. Haider knew how much it took for Dee to maintain her composure around such people.

And Asfandyar was a completely different case.

Things were getting raveling.

The more he was trying to keep Dee from Asfandyar, the more they were confronting each other. He didn’t know what fate had in store for all of them but Haider was sure nothing good was waiting for these two.

“Would you like to have a race?” Asfand asked casually. “As a matter of fact, would you like to make it more interesting?” Haider didn’t want to but Asfand’s condescending tone and attitude plus his constant leering gaze towards Dee was infuriating him beyond control.

“I would also like to see what your pet got from you.” Asfand just smirked in return to his remark. “What are the stakes?”

“I will have what is yours.” Asfand looked towards Dee. “I will have your most prized possession if I win.” Xian was about to step in but Haider stopped him with a tilt of his head. His fist clenched furiously by his side. Any sort of action right now could result in serious consequences and Haider needed to avoid them at any cost.

“And if I win?” Haider countered calmly.

“You name it.” Dee just shrugged when Haider looked towards her in silent inquisition. She might have appeared pacific but she was clamorous inside. Her eyes were spitting fire at Asfand through her dark Aviators. His intentions were very clear.

Oh how she wished to paint the very ground Asfandyar was standing on with his very own blood.

Giving one last lingering glance to the subject of his newfound obsession, Asfand turned on his heels and walked back to his box. “If he lost today, kill him.” His words left Safan stunned and stoned. He knew how much Asfand liked and cherished Axel. But for one single race, he was ready to forsake him.

He knew his boss was ruthless and heartless but his soul would be this dead, he had no idea of.

“What are you going to do?” Dee crossed her arms and looked at Haider calmly. He leaned over the railings beside her and grabbed the cold metal fiercely. At the whistle and fire, the barricades were lifted and their beasts sprinted forward like thunderbolts.

“If I lost” Haider muttered under his breath while watching the beastly creatures taking over each other. They were just like their masters. Strong and fearsome.

But who was going to prevail, no one knew.

A poisonous feeling coursed through Dee when she unconsciously looked at Asfand. He was standing erect, shoulders squared and a calm look was masking his inner thoughts. She won’t deny the palpitating feeling she was getting by the mere thought of him winning against Haider.

The outcome was unknown and so were the intentions of this man.

She looked away the moment Asfand turned. She could feel his cold eyes boring in her temple. Those cold green eyes. But not a single frown could make its way on her face to let him know how much his unwavering attention was bothering her. Her thumb twiddled the ring on her forefinger restlessly when the closing drew near. Everything turned still. But not the tension that the air carried.

The outcome.

No one could have anticipated it. Neither Mir Haider Ali Shah nor Asfandyar Sherzai. The anger was slowly seeping from them into the very atmosphere. It was visible in the way they were eyeing their horses coming to a slow halt after crossing the end line.

Together.

Dee watched Haider calmly. She could have never imagined a day like this will ever come. But it’s their fault to underestimate a formidable enemy like Asfandyar Sherzai. He might not be showing it but he could never fool her. She knew the extent of danger he posed to her and Haider.

That man can ruin them in a way no one can.

Haider stepped back slowly after standing straight and shoved his hands deep in his pockets. Glancing his way one more time, Dee straightened as well and walked past him to leave. No words were exchanged but the silence.

They knew very well what this mere race has started.

“Xian?”

“Yes” He answered without confirming twice and walked closely behind Dee. With an enemy within the vicinity, anything could happen. And with the stakes they were playing, anything was expected. As Dee neared Asfand, she couldn’t help but observe his still form.

He was beyond angry.

She could tell by the way muscles around his jaw locked and twitched. His eyes were ablaze and he was glaring at the poor creature who was oblivious to the silent wrath of his owner. Asfand didn’t even react or acknowledged when Dee walked past him from behind. His ego was rattled and she knew what such thing does to prideful men like Asfandyar Sherzai.

You have a lot to pay for Asfandyar Sherzai. For the crimes you didn’t commit but were witness to.

“Boss!” Safan approached Asfand reluctantly. Asfand balled his fists when Dee walked away from him. He might have not shown it but he was very much aware of her haughty eyes.

Asfand could have never, not even in his wildest dreams, expected an outcome like this. It was not win-loss situation. It was a fucking tie. Someone stood on par with him and that alone was enough to set his nerves ablaze.

This is not fucking possible. He clenched his jaw tightly. I will not accept it. Asfand gave Haider a peripheral glare who was returning it with his equally hardened gaze.

“It’s on Safan.”

*********

“I said I am not coming” Dee snapped the moment she put the phone against her ear. Can life get any easier? She was going through some really important documents when Haider thought it will be wise to intrude on her busy schedule.

“Why the strong reaction? I just-”

“No” Dee straight out refused. “I am not going to meet that devil of an aunt of your beloved wife. I have much better things to do than pay respects to her foul persona.” She slammed the file shut and pushed it away. “If it was in my hands, I would have shot her the first time I met her. That woman does not possess a tongue. It’s a broken record that knows to play only one fucking thing.”

“She is Amber’s aunt. Show some respect.” Dee scoffed at his lame attempt of scolding. She knew how much Haider was enjoying it.

“Sorry excuse of an aunt if I might add. One that was marrying off her beloved and only niece to a man who was thirty times her own age. Why am I not finding this situation laudable?”

“Dee! We don’t know what circumstances led her to make such decision. Amber is what is left of her sister. You think she would do it purposely?”

“As if you don’t know that woman’s intentions Haider? You know what that Safeena the bitch-ty aims to? She is gold digging bit-”

“Okay, that’s more than enough.” Haider intervened before Dee could complete her curse. “You are using too much foul language Dee. If Dar-jee heard, he will be disappointed in you.” Dee just snorted and twisted her chair left to right.

“Forget it Haider. I don’t want to meet Safeena whatever aunt-y.” Haider laughed loudly which forced Dee to pull her phone away. “Tone it down or I will go deaf.”

Haider always found Dee’s reaction amusing. Whenever Safeena aka the bitch aunt was mentioned before her, she showed immediate reaction and exploded like a grenade. Haider knew her points were valid. He knew Safeena’s ulterior motives behind her so-called love for her niece whom she was going to sacrifice for a few pennies in name of respect and society. But for Amber’s sake, he bore with that woman whom he wanted to rip to shreds with his own hands.

God forbid, what fate Amber might have been bearing right now if he didn’t come across them in Pakistan two years back.

His wife was too innocent to look past the true colors of such people. That’s why she was ready to sacrifice herself for the sake of her aunt. And this is exactly why Haider never let her in on their dark past.

“Please! For Amber’s sake, come. She loves you like her own sister. Just come once. You don’t have to stay longer and I give you my word. If that bitch of a woman said anything atrocious like last time, shoot her. I won’t mind and I am sure Amber will too.”

“Of course” Dee leaned in her chair with a chuckle. “Look! I am not promising anything but I will try. You stick to your words Haider. If you turned on me, I will shoot you first.”

“Sure, sure.” Dee just shook her head. “I’ll see you then.”

“Yeah” and with that she disconnected the call and focused her attention back on her laptop. She was going through the progress report of her new investment before Haider called. Things were sailing pretty smooth and she was satisfied with the work being done.

This project cost her more than a fortune over the span of last three years but it was worth every dime spent over it.

After all, it’s going to fulfill her ambition.

It was her ultimate weapon and trump card that will bring ruination to all.

“Just two more months” Dee swiped the slides with a sinsitrous smile.

You won’t even know what hit you.

*********

Asfand slammed the glass hard on the table and sunk in the couch with an agitated sigh. Safan was bothered and confused by his attitude these past days but didn’t have the guts to voice his thoughts. The way Asfand was right now, one wrong word can earn him a bullet to his head.

“They are hiding something” Asfand loosened his tie with another frustrated grunt and refilled his glass. He drowned himself in work more than necessary, had meetings upon meetings with his business associates and underworld. But nothing could take his mind off that woman who was slowly crawling up his system like a lethal poison.

And Asfandyar had no antidote for her.

Safan sighed inaudibly at the ambiguity of his friend’s thoughts. This was what he dreaded the most. Safan knew their return to Pakistan right now will be in best interest for Asfand. He was digressing from his path because of a fucking obsession. Safan knew what could occur if Asfand stayed in America any longer.

Those Shahs were not good for him either and it was better if this chapter was closed permanently before things got out of hand.

For all of them.

Because Safan knew of the secret Asfand was kept from. It was a bad move on his part to let him know about Globaviations. Had Safan known earlier, he would have never told Asfand about it. There was enough venom thumping in his veins. He does not need to poison his already poisoned being further by knowing what those fucking old geezers never told him.

And it will be best if Asfand never came to know of it.

“Those fucking foster siblings are keeping a dark secret.” Asfand threw the glass away in frustration.

“It doesn’t concern us.” Safan tried to reason which earned him a glare from his boss. “What the fuck has gotten into you Asfand? You never behaved like this before? What has gotten into you? Why are you fussing so much over them? Over that woman. She is just a fucking woman. You can have hundreds like her.” Asfand just scoffed lowly. “You are forgetting why you came to America in first place? Get your shit together or you will ruin it.”

“Something is amiss” Asfand rasped and slumped in the couch again.

“Asfand!”

“I can fucking feel it Safan.” Asfand tapped the muzzle of his gun to his forehead. “They, that woman” he grunted with closed eyes. “The way she looks at me. I have seen those hate-filled hazel eyes before.” Asfand dragged the gun down to his chest, right below his heart where the remnant of an old memory remained. “Those eyes remind me of a foggy memory. Those eyes. Those hauntingly cold eyes.”

“You can’t behave like this. You plan to take over the seat of Sardar like this?” Safan warned “Like a fucking love-struck fucker?” Asfand snarled but Safan remained unperturbed. It was a low blow but it hit the mark. “Get over with the gala and head back. Don’t forget your own words. You need the position of Sardar to execute your plan.”

“Shut the fuck up” Asfand bellowed, “I don’t need a reminder.” He leaned back and stared at the ceiling with a newfound hate. “My thirst can never be quenched and forgotten. Nothing can douse it but their blood. That I will spill with my own hands.”

“You are almost done with everything else. Once this fucking gala is over and you have taken over Thompson’s shares, we are leaving.” Asfand just grunted in response.

Safan left to get the task done after leaving his boss/friend alone to his own thoughts. He knew his friend was not a weak bastard but a formidable monster. He needed to get Asfand away from here. From Haider and his family. And above everything else,

From D. Almas Sahi.

Enjoy and don’t forget to let me know of your thoughts <3

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