A/N: I forgot to mention that this is going to be an epilogue in three parts, and all Flashbacks are in Italics.
This chapter is for all the fans of Sanaya Irani, the most versatile actress I've seen on Indian Television.
Nafrat paas aane na de..
"Aapko isse kya faraq padhta hai?"
"What kind of question is that?!"
The only answer was a tinkling laugh.
Meanwhile, inside the conference room..
"Damn you to hell, Viraf Rathore!"
Viraf Rathore heard those words, and finally lost it.
This was the final straw.
Who did she think she was, anyway?
He had known she would be stubborn, but this was beyond all limits.
Sometimes he wished he had never set eyes on her!
His mind went back to the first time he had seen her, in a party at her home, Shantivan.
There were plenty of women here, but his eyes went straight to her, and remained there for the rest of the event.
He knew who she was, of course. Her photograph had been splashed across all the leading newspapers after she had taken over as CEO of A.R, India's leading fashion house.
But seeing her in real life knocked him off his feet.
He was amazed at the effect she had on him that first time, the long black hair, the flashing hazel eyes, the slim curves that enticed him like nothing ever had before..
And then he had heard her voice, and the fall back to earth had been spectacular.
"If you are done staring, maybe you should leave now?"
"If you are done being rude to your guests, maybe I will."
"I wouldn't have to be rude, if only certain Harvard-educated CEOs had better manners!"
"So you know who I am. How flattering."
"Who doesn't know the biggest playboy in town?"
"You shouldn't believe everything you read in the tabloids."
"Maybe you should stop doing things that end up as fodder for the tabloids."
"Maybe I will, now that I have met you."
And that had been the first of many stormy exchanges.
In that instance, she had walked off angrily.
And after that, whenever they had met, sparks had flown between them.
He knew after that first meeting that he was intrigued by her, but he also quickly realized that she was holding herself back, an wall of ice seemed to exist whenever he tried to approach her.
And then she started avoiding him completely, often leaving the venue just as soon as he arrived there.
But her resistance only fueled his determination, and he had doubled his efforts to create opportunities where they would meet.
And then, there had been the dance..
A party to celebrate Akash and Payal Raizada's wedding anniversary at Shantivan again, and as usual, he had singled her out immediately.
Looking ethereal in white, she glided among the guests with a grace that drew him towards her, even while anger at her indifference threatened to overpower him.
When the dance floor was opened and the musicians prepared to begin their performance, he wasted no time in going up to her.
"May I have this dance?"
He knew she was fuming inwardly, but he had chosen his moment well.
Surrounded by her closest relatives and friends, she could hardly refuse him and walk away like she always did, not without an explanation anyway.
And he was right.
Payal Raizada spoke up , and he stopped himself from smiling triumphantly at her words.
"Yes, go ahead and dance, it's been so long .."
Having no excuse to refuse ,she turned to him, placing her hand in his reluctantly ,even as her eyes flashed with anger . He led her to the dance floor,anticipation running through his veins.
The music started,and he pulled her close, trying to ignore the way in which she was holding herself away from him,her body stiff and resistant to his touch.
She wasn't even looking at him, her gaze firmly fixed at a point over his shoulder.
He couldn't resist the challenge ,and pulled her closer ,moving his hand down until it rested at the small of her back.
That did the trick, her eyes shot up to his,the flame burning brighter than ever in those hazel depths.
"I had forgotten that you had no manners ."
"I haven't forgotten how beautiful you are ."
"Did you learn the art of meaningless compliments at Harvard?"
He hadn't answered in words ,instead pulling her close again until she could feel how aroused he was by her proximity.
He whispered, "That...isn't meaningless."
Her eyes widened in outrage and she stepped away immediately, raising her hand with the clear intent to slap him.
At the last possible moment, she seemed to realize exactly where they were, and what kind of scandal would ensue if she humiliated him in public.
Instead, she had chosen to flay him with her sharp tongue.
"It is true that actions speak louder than words. In your case, they tell me that your character is dheela. And that, unfortunately, cannot be forgotten."
He watched her walk away from him, anger slowly giving way to a reluctant appreciation.
And then, he remembered how she had felt in his arms.
She had fit into his embrace perfectly, as if her body was designed to pair with his.
The desire that had slammed into him at that moment was something he had never experienced before, or since.
And he decided right then and there that he would have her.
He had to.
No matter what he had to do in order to achieve that aim.
Which is why he was here right now, in this conference room, trying to get past his anger and remember just why he had manipulated and schemed for the past few months in order to get her just where he wanted her.
He had poured all his energies into making sure that the Rathore Group was the only company chosen for this venture, and had made sure that no one else stood a chance.
He hadn't even looked at another woman since meeting her, a fact that was very unusual for him.
And after all that,here she was, resisting him yet again, and continuing to deny the attraction that was palpable..and his patience finally ran out.
He shoved the chair out of his way, and pulled her close again, ignoring her furious struggle to free herself.
He gritted his teeth as he spoke.
"Damn you, for not accepting what's between us. Damn you for being an ice-queen, when I can clearly see that a passionate woman exists inside. Damn you!"
He shook her once, and immediately regretted his outburst.
Letting her go, he turned his back to her, running his fingers through his hair while he attempted to calm himself.
His anger wouldn't resolve this.
He needed to be composed and businesslike if he intended to make her see sense.
Before he could turn around, he heard her furious words, spoken in a low tone that conveyed her rage far better than any loud voice could.
He faced her again, and spoke before she could say anything else.
"Sure. I'll do that. But I do hope you know that any chance of a merger with the Rathore Group walks out with me."
"I'll find another company, and it's none of your..."
"There isn't time for that. Not if you wish to launch the overseas arm of the A.R empire in time for..."
"Do you think I don't know that? Why else would I tolerate your presence here?"
"Then you also know that you have no other option. Not now. And if you want this deal to go through, then you know what you have to do."
He watched as all the implications sank in, and saw her close her eyes in weary resignation.
He knew then that he had won, and pushed away the tinge of regret he felt when he remembered his methods.
She opened her eyes and stared at him.
"Name the place. And time. I'll be there. "
He tried to keep the triumphant smile off his face as he answered.
"No need for that. I always pick my dates from their houses. Whether you want to return later though, is entirely up to you."
"If you think your practiced flirting is going to change anything, then you are mistaken. I'm only agreeing to this so that the merger isn't threatened. And also because I can finally prove that 'us' isn't happening."
"It will be my pleasure to prove you wrong."
"And it will be mine to show you the way out. Right now!"
He smirked as he turned to leave, but faced her again from the doorway.
"Seven tonight. Be ready. I don't like to be kept waiting."
He was gone before she could come up with a suitable retort.
Later that evening, as she waited in the Shantivan gardens, she fumed inwardly when she remembered the games he had played.
Why was he doing all this?
Why couldn't he accept her refusal, and let her go?
The ring of her cellphone interrupted her thoughts, and she answered immediately.
"How did you get my private cell number?"
"I know a great deal about you. The sooner you accept that, the easier it will be."
"Where are you?"
She hung up, and walked towards the gate, hoping that no one saw him.
She didn't want to answer intrusive questions, and the members of her family weren't exactly known for their tact.
She saw him immediately.
He was leaning against a red convertible, and straightened up when he saw her.
Dressed in a black turtleneck and black jeans, he looked like he had stepped off a runway.
Her heart lurched, and she immediately felt the familiar guilt that invariably accompanied the stirrings of desire she always felt when she saw him.
She clenched her fists, and walked up to him.
"You look lovely."
Before she could respond, he bent and kissed the back of her hand.
Straightening up again, he turned around to open the passenger-side door for her.
She got in, speechless and confused.
He walked around to the driver's side, settling himself in with a fluid grace, and turning on the ignition before he spoke.
"Can I put your seatbelt on for you?"
Flustered, she quickly clicked the seatbelt in place, the uncanny resemblance to another man coming to the forefront of her mind again.
They drove off, and she found herself unable to respond to his many attempts at small-talk.
Until she noticed the expensive high-rise building they were now parked in front of.
"Why are we here? I thought we were going to a restaurant!"
"When did I say we were?"
Shocked, she could only stare while he got out and opened the door for her.
"I'm not going up to your place!"
"As boring as it is, do you want a repetition of what will happen if this date doesn't go the way I want it to?"
She stepped out angrily, and walked past him towards the lifts.
He got in after her, and she noticed that he pressed the button for the top floor.
"The penthouse apartment? Why am I not surprised?"
He didn't reply, merely smirking as the lift opened to reveal a lobby with a door at one end.
He unlocked the door, and gestured for her to precede him.
She saw the chrome and marble interiors, and her suspicions regarding his playboy lifestyle were confirmed when she realized that this was a bachelor-pad.
He seemed to read her thoughts, and laughed.
"You can change the interiors if you don't like them."
"I'm not going to be around long enough to do that."
He laughed again, and led her out onto a circular balcony with a spectacular view of the city skyline.
A circular table had been set up with a dinner service, and she sat down on the chair he pulled out for her.
"I hope you have a good appetite.."
She looked up at him, her cheeks turning pink as she registered the glint in his eyes, turning those innocent words into so much more.
Not that anything about this man could be described as innocent anyway.
And then she gasped as he removed the covers to reveal a selection of all her favorite dishes.
He answered the question in her eyes before she could say a word.
"I told you, I have made it my business to know everything about you."
He turned to a side-table to pick up a bottle of champagne.
She spoke before he could open it.
"I don't drink. And I don't like people who do."
He stared at her for a long moment, and then whirled around, tossing the bottle over the railing of the balcony in one smooth movement.
She stood up, shocked as she heard the distant crash as the bottle hit the ground.
Was he mad?
"What the hell did you just do? What if it had hit someone?"
He turned to face her, the expression on his face shocking her with it's intensity.
"I don't care. You don't drink, and I won't either. Not after tonight. I'm giving it up, just like I've given up other women since I've seen you."
"What? Are you serious?"
"I never joke when it comes to you."
"Why are you doing this? Even after all I've done to push you away?"
"I've asked myself that same question, many times.And I don't know the answer yet. All I know is that I want to be near you, with you, all the time.."
"I can't give you what you want."
"I just can't! Why don't you accept that and let me go?"
"I need to know why. We are both single, and unattached. There is nothing to stop us from exploring this further. And from what I know of your family history, you should now be open to this possibility.."
"I am not going to discuss my family with you!"
She turned away, intent on escape.
She had only gotten as far as his living room before he pulled her back, and imprisoned her in his strong embrace.
"I'm not letting you go. I can't."
She turned in his arms to face him, all the fight leaving her suddenly as she struggled to understand.
"Because I need you."
She stared into his dark eyes, drowning in a sea of passion, long-denied and unstoppable.
What could it hurt to give in?
Just this once...
She closed her eyes.
He leaned forward and she felt his lips touch hers.
Softly at first, and then with increasing pressure.
She didn't respond.
She couldn't, as guilt reared it's head again.
He seemed to sense this, and drew away.
"Do you know what I have felt since the first time I saw you?"
She could do nothing but shake her head in response.
"I have felt exactly what your name says..."
He kissed her again, and this time, his passion won.
She kissed him back, her arms winding around his neck as time ceased to exist..
He pulled her closer, his arms tightening around her waist.
And then, he picked her up in his arms, taking one step back before placing her on the couch.
He continued kissing her as she lay beneath him, and she felt herself experience sensations that were surprising in their intensity.
He left her lips to focus his attentions on her neck, and she opened her eyes to stare at the ceiling as the spell he had woven was partially broken.
What had he said just now?
Reality crashed down on her as she suddenly remembered all that her name implied.
How could she have allowed this to happen?
Shame gave her the strength to push him away, and she stood up abruptly, her chest heaving as she struggled to regain control.
He stood up too, and reached out to her, his eyes glinting with anger when she evaded his touch.
She had no idea what to say, and turned around with the sole intention of getting away.
He followed her, and pulled her back with one hand.
"Stop running away! You can't erase what just happened!"
"What just happened was a mistake!"
Viraf heard her words, and an unstoppable rage took hold of him.
The passion they had just unleashed between them was something that was special, something that could never happen again..
Why couldn't she see that?
He realized that the barriers that she had set up between them were too strong.
One date, or many, wouldn't resolve this.
His mind considered and rejected several options, and finally decided on one solution.
It was madness.
But it was all he could think of right now.
He let her go, and spoke in a cold voice that stopped her in her tracks.
"I've changed my mind. My company will not sign this deal with yours."
She whirled around, anger warring with panic as she tried to respond.
"What?! Why? I just fulfilled your condition.."
"This condition was never in writing. I'm surprised an astute businesswoman like you has overlooked that fact."
"You can't do this! I did everything you asked.."
"I told you, I've changed my mind. This merger will not happen unless.."
"Unless you do as I ask. And this time, this condition will be included in the contract."
"If I had any other option, I would tell you to go to hell!"
"But you don't."
"What is your condition,you b..."
"Uh-huh. I don't use those words. And I don't like people who do."
He watched as she recognized his deliberate use of words similar to those she had said earlier.
"Tell me what you want!"
"It's quite simple, really."
She waited, her face taking on a resigned expression.
He took a deep breath, and spoke..
"I want you to marry me."
In another house, a woman knelt down in front of an idol of Devi Maiyya, her pooja ki thaal beside her.
"Devi Maiyya, I'm here to pray and confess..although I think you know most of it..."
She took a deep breath.
"I knew Viraf Rathore was attracted to her, right from the beginning..And I also knew that she felt something for him, too. But she wouldn't move forward, because she was bound by her loyalty...she wouldn't break the trust that had been placed on her..."
Another deep breath.
"And so I decided to bring them together..by stealthily arranging for them to meet. By accepting invitations on her behalf, so that she had no choice except going there, and meeting him...And now, things seem to be working out. So I am here to ask you to forgive me for my interference, and hope that you will bless them, and give them the love that they deserve..."
She bowed her head, and placed the flowers in front of the idol.
She got to her feet, and turned around, startled out her wits when she saw the person behind her.
Last part of LLATW, coming soon!