'Sir, there's a phone for you from a woman who refuses to tell her name', the petrified secretary Fiona informed Asad through the phone.
'So now I have to deal with such mundane calls as well? What have I hired you all for? Staring at me all day?', Asad yelled, making Fiona jerk and blush a little at the last question.
'Sir the woman says if I don't transfer the call to you, she'd publicise all your...uhh', Fiona replied having a hard time finishing the statement.
'My what?', Asad asked carefully.
'Your pleasure seeking ways with her girls', Fiona quickly let it out, shutting her eyes to save herself from the embarassment.
'Giselda', Asad exhaled as his eyes turned wide as saucers at the realisation of the mysterious caller. It was none other than that lecherous woman.
'Transfer the call', Asad spat out.
'Yes sir', Fiona replied thanking the heavens for ending her misery.
'So how's my favourite stud today?', Giselda spoke into the phone, making Asad cringe at her tone.
'What do you want?', Asad hissed.
'You know what I want, Khan!', Giselda spat out, the seductive tone long gone, placed by a menacing one.
'Well you can't have it. Don't call me again or I will personally make sure you rot in hell', Asad said through gritted teeth.
'I'm going to get that girl, I've already told you that. It doesn't matter if I have to do so from where you're keeping her, or from your own office under your nose, I'l get her', Giselda replied twirling the telephone wire around her fingers on the other end. 'But it would save both of ours time if you hand her over to me. She's no good for you!'
Asad wasn't focusing on what she said anymore. Her voice rang in her ears 'or from your own office...'. How did she know Zoya was at his office?
'Who told you?', Asad hissed once again. 'WHO TOLD YOU?'
'Calm down, boy', Giselda replied. 'I've got my own ways. Listen, if you don't hand her over to me on your own, the girl will have to be snatched. And snatching can be a painful process. Do you want the angel to be hurt because of you?', Giselda said, asking the question wth a mock-sadness tone.
Asad could feel sweatbeads forming on his temple, travelling their heated journey towards the crook of his neck.
'That girl was kept safe with us before, but if you make this hard for me, I'l make sure she sees the worst side of this place and of Giselda!'
'Stop wasting my time, b*tch!', Asad yelled and shut the phone with a bang.
Closing his eyes, he threw his head back on his chair thinking of the worse situations Zoya could have to go through. What could he do to save her? He had to save the young woman. He had seen his mother going through something not so different but as a boy, he could do nothing to save her. But now he was one of the most influencial businessmen in the country, he had to save this girl. Maybe Allah sent him that girl so he could save her from that hell and also to make her live a normal life again too, he thought as he jerked up from his seat and started pacing his office.
'Where are we going so early, Noor?', Najma asked as she saw her bestfriend fully dressed standing near the window.
Noor looked over at Najma, rubbing her eyes, shaking off her sleep and smiled.
'We're going no where. I'm going', she replied.
'What do you mean? Where are you going?', Najma asked confused as she sat up straight on her bed, looking at her friend with a surprised look on her face.
'I uhh...I got a call from Farhaan, he wanted to see me', Noor replied, hating herself for lying to her.
'WHAT?! And you're actually going to meet that monster?', Najma practically shouted, jumping off the bed and standing in front of Noor now.
It warmed Noor's heart to see how instantly she forgot her miseries and jumped towards her in the mention of her ex boyfriend who had publicly humiliated her by breaking up with her. Najma had always kept her away from him ever since and never had allowed to meet him.
'Maybe he wants to get back together', Noor replied as she walked across the room to get her purse.
'No way, Noor! I'm not going to let you go! What are you even thinking?', Najma said out loud, barricading her path with her arms.
Noor hugged her friend, shocking her.
'I'l be back soon, I promise', she replied smiling and tickling her, moved Najma out of the way and ran out.
Najma stood kn the door watching her friend leave, her mind still not approving of it at all.
'But sir-', Ayaan began exasperated, only to be cut off.
'It's final, Ayaan. We've talked about this before as well', Asad said, feeling his own heart clench for some reason unknown to him. 'That girl's safety is our top most priority right now. We can't let anything happen to that girl, it would destroy our whole business's reputation'.
'But why me?', Ayaan whinned, hating the feeling of a lost boy being told what to do by a stranger.
'Because she's comfortable with you. We're being observed Ayaan, we need to be careful', Asad explained to Ayaan.
'You know very well Mr. Asad Ahmed Khan I can not go back to my sister and see her die! Why don't you understand that?!', Ayaan for the first time in his life, spoke in a tone louder than Asad.
Asad knew Ayaan's anger was justified. He knew everything about his background he needed to know. It was something hard for him to do, but it was needed. He had to be cruel to him to save Zoya.
'Please. Just for a month', Asad said in a low voice, begging him.
Ayaan looked into his eyes and saw sincerity, saw understanding and he was sure he saw concern. At that very moment, he realised how he had seen th exact same shine in someone else's eyes. Zoya's. He would never want anything bad happening to her, he would never be able to forgive himself if anything bad happened. He sighed, a defeated look on his face making Asad feel slightly bad about feeling happy he had agreed.
'One month', Ayaan said trying to imprint it into Asad's mind that he would stay not a day over one month.
'Thankyou', Asad said smiling. 'Get back to work now. Don't tell Zoya anything right now. We will talk to her together once we head back home'.
Ayaan nodded and exited the office, his mind preparing itself for the worse one month of his life. But what made him feel worse was the fact that he couldn't even blame Asad Ahmed Khan. He couldn't curse him under his breath. That had always been the way with that man, he thought as he walked back to his cabin.
Zoya sat in her cabin, thinking about the hurtful words Akshay had said to her. If a guy had said something like this to her a few years ago, he would probably have returned home with a broken jaw, but the new Zoya was reduced to tears in a matter of seconds, making her hate herself. Was that how everyone thought of her here? Was Asad Ahmed Khan really treating her specially? If so, then why? She had to get to the bottom of this. She couldn't let the whole office think of her like this. Her time in hell was over, and she needed a new life but there was noway she could get a new life if people held her back talking about her like this.
She got up from her chair and with a sharp intake of air around her, she pushed open her cabin door and walked towards the once place she dreaded going to in the office. The huge glass-ed cabin on her left made higher than any other cabin by the help of perfect marble stairs so that noone below could see into the cabin. Telling herself she had to do this, she marched her way over to the cabin, knowing very well that Asad had seen her coming ever since she had left her own cabin and he now had her eyes on her. Feeling incredibly hot under his gaze, he pushed open his cabin door and marched inside not even bothering to knock.
'Mr. Asad Ahmed Khan, I would like to talk to you', she said looking at her feet.
Asad rotated his chair and took in her form. He noticed how she was avoiding his eyes. He felt himself having a quick flashback of the scene played in her cabin, her arms wrapped around Ayaan. He shook his head to shake away the thought before it poisoned his mind once again and scared her off.
'You would like to talk to me?', he repeated her sentence, with a lopsided smirk.
Zoya's eyes sprang up to look at his face as she heard his amused tone. That infuriated her, his confidence, his smirk, but she knew she had to calm down if she wanted anything from him. Shutting her eyes, she quickly took a long breath before staring into his eyes again, hoping not to be distracted by those perfect orbs.
'Everyone thinks you are treating me especially. Listen Mr., if you think I'm vulnerable and that I need any special attention, you are wrong. I need noones special attention!', she let out.
Asad stared at her shocked at her confidence. The quiet, terrified lamb had magically turned into a lioness shocking him to extremes.
'Do not flatter yourself Miss. Zoya Farooqui, nobody's giving you any special attention', Asad spoke hoping he meant what he said.
'Then why did you give me such a big deal on my first day?', Zoya asked as if she was scolding a young boy in his class.
'You came to me yourself, Zoya!', Asad replied not believing her outburst.
'I did. But why did you help me?', Zoya asked, her gaze lowering again as she felt her cheeks colouring at the thought of him holding her hand in his in the conference room. 'Do you do that with every employee?'
Asad stood up from his chair and advanced towards her as if in a daze. Zoya took steps backward as she saw his unreadable eyes and an expression so calm, as if his face was carved out of clay.
Asad stopped a few feets away from her and looking at her intensely replied, 'Actually no. I have nother done that before'.
Zoya searched his eyes for a meaning, but none. She wondered what he meant and why.
'Exactly. Isn't that special treatment then?', Zoya found the words slipping out her tongue as if it had its own mind.
'I don't know', Asad replied removing his gaze from her face and looking outside his cabin, distracting himself to search for the answer.
'I'm not a coward', Zoya said knowing she was going off topic. 'I can do things on my own, I can handle things on my own. This is not me. Please don't make me feel as if I'm useless. I'm not useless'.
Asad felt the urgency in her voice, the desperation. He looked over to her face to see her staring at the globe placed on his desk, behind him. She was no longer talking to him, he knew.
'I'm not a piece of furniture. I have feelings. I'm not vulnerable, I'm a strong girl. I can face this world om my own. I don't need anyone', he could see her choking on her words slightly as her eyes watered. 'It wasn't my fault. I had just told them I was going out for lunch because I wanted to go out on my first date. I was so confident when I had lied, I don't lack confidence at all. Don't help me!'
Asad didn't understand a word she was saying but he knew she wasn't in his cabin anymore. Atleast not mentally. He saw the distance look on her face, tears starting to make their way across her face. He had never felt weird before. He wanted to shake her out of it, but he had no idea how to deal with people's emotions. Specially this one. What was he supposed to say? Or do?
'Please. Don't', Zoya uttered.
Asad waited for her to shake herself out of it on her own. He stared at her face, waited for her to say sonething else. But it never came. She wasn't even blinking, he noticed. Fear gripped his whole body, going down through every vein of his. She was just staring mindlessly at the globe, crying.
Then Asad did something he never thought he would ever do. He walked towards Zoya and placed his arms around her whole body, drawing her towards him. He felt how light she seemed and almost waited for her to push him back, but it never came. No hands wrapped themselves around him either.
'I am like everyone else. I'm not special', he heard her repeat over and over again.
'On my first interview for a job, when I was sixteen years old, I gagged infront of thirty evaluators. I vomitted all over the place, I was nervous', Asad found himself say.
Zoya heard him talk. And that was when she felt his arms around her. His cologne driving her crazy. He was close, really close, her mind warned. But the hug, it was so gentle, so polite, so comforting, her mind disagreed.
'I was thrown out of the building', Asad completed.
Zoya pushed his body away from her and freed herself from his weight. But she didn't run away like Asad had expected her to. Instead, she stood in front of him, close to him rather, and looked at him with eyes that spoke volumes. The eyes that apologized to him and thanked him at the same time. Then suddenly, she walked back a little to maintain the distance, her eyes on her feet again.
'Are you okay?', Asad asked breaking the awkward silence that had spread in the room.
'I'm f-fine', Zoya stammered. 'Excuse me'.
With that, Zoya ran from his cabin, while Asad stared at her petite from hurriedly descending the stairs until she walked into her cabin. Asad moved his gaze from her and looked in the other direction not wanting to step on her personal space by spying on her at through his cabin.
'How could you Zoya?!', Zoya screamed, her head thrown into her palms as her elbows supported them while they rested on the glass desk in front of her. 'How could you let him see your vulnerable side?!'
Her mind told her he had already seen her vulnerable many times but she didn't want it to happen again. But it did. She closed her eyes and the feel of his arms around her body ever so gently made her shudder with emotions. Goosebumps followed all over her body. She had forgotten being handled this gently. She remembered the times she was so roughly thrown around like an animal in tne enclosure of that dreadful hell. She remembered how the huge, semi naked or sometimes completely naked women would kick her in her stomach or slap her tight across the face. And then again, she rememberd Asad Ahmed Khan's hug. It had made her feel almost safe and secured.
She stood up from her chair and went towards the washroom in her cabin. Bless the soul who had made an attatched washroom, she thought. Splashing water on her face, she looked herself in the mirror. She saw herself sprawled over the ground, her face covered with claw marks and then she saw her body so gently being hugged. She once again splashed some water on her face, and opened her eyes carefully to look into the mirror again. This time, she saw nothing. Sighing with relief, she turned around and let herself lean onto the sink.
Tracing her wet hands on her whole face, and smoothing her hair, she felt the voices in her head play with her.
'I was thrown out of the building'
'...I gagged in front of thirty evaluators'
'...Vomitted all over the place'
She turned around once again to find her own face rather alarming. She no longer saw the afriad self of her as she thought of him. She knew she wasn't afraid of him anymore, just maybe of his outbursts but never the fear of being physically hurt by him. She saw her calm, relaxed face and decided she didn't know what she liked better. Her scared self, or her comfortable self with him. She wiped her face with the tissue paper and walked out into her cabin to get some work done. After all, its not like she was going anywhere from here.
'Hello, Asad?', Asad heard someone say on the other end of the phone.
'Junaid Sahab, how are you?', Asad replied recognising the voice of one one of his suppliers, rubbing his temple as the banging headache set in.
'I'm fine, beta. Can you do me a favour? It's not really business related', he said.
The last thing he wanted was favouring people with this headache. But he had learned that it was important to keep good relations with their suppliers and hence whether it be proffessional or personal, you had to listen.
'I will be glad to be of any help to you', Asad replied fishing his drawer for any pills to cease the headache while the phone rested between his face and his shoulder.
'My friend's daughter wants to meet you to discuss something, if you could give her anytime?', he said.
'Not another play date, please Sahab', Asad said into the phone earning big throaty laugh from the other end.
'I promise you it wouldn't be anything of such sort', Junaid Sahab replied, hints of laughter sitll evident in his voice. 'Would today be fine?'
Asad shut his eyes irritated. He was thinking of going home, his headache was worsening.
'Why don't you send her over to my place for the meet today if it isn't anything proffessional?', Asad asked hoping to get to go home.
'That would be perfect', came the reply much to his relief. 'I'l send her around 7 p.m, would that be fine?'
Asad glaned over the clock to see he still had an hour before this meet. He wasn't going to complain for atleast he won't have to stay in the office. He told Junaid Sahab it was fine and closing the phone, stood up from his chair, collecting his coat and heading out of his cabin.
'Lo beta', he said to the young girl sitting in front of him. 'Your work's done. 7 p.m sharp, don't be late. The young man hates people who get late'.
'Thankyou so much Junaid Sahab, you have no idea how much you and Rashid uncle have helped me!', Noor replied getting up.
'Any friend of Rashid is definitely my friend', he replied kindly standing up to guide her outside.
As Noor walked out, she wondered if the man knew his friend and the man he was on the phone with were related. She wondered if he knew Asad Ahmed Khan was Rashid uncle's father.
Asad knocked on Zoya's cabin door and walked in. He saw how Zoya hadn't seen him and was working on some design. He cleared his throat to get her attention.
'I'm going home, come on I'l take you with me', Asad said carefully, not wanting to leave her here while he went home.
Zoya stood up immediately as she saw him. The last thing she wanted was to be alone with him in his car, where her mind could mess up again. She didn't trust herself around him. Her vulnerable side was attracted to the man, and it always came up, and she hated it.
'I'l come with Ayaan', Zoya replied avoiding his eyes.
'Ayaan would be really late tonight. I'l drop you off', Asad said turning around to leave. 'It's an order', he added with the finality in his voice, signalling the end of conversation.
Zoya shut her eyes to stop herself from screaming out loud before she reached for her files and followed him out, praying to her Allah to help her not mess up again.
Okay, I want feedbacks from everyone of you this time. PLEASE. It was a long wala chapter. You guys deserve a long chapter for being so patient. Thankyou so very much for waiting for this long