He had been tapping his fingers on the folder that rested on his lap, since the past ten minutes. Resting uncomfortably on the black leather cushion in his shiny limousine with his gaze on some point in space, his mind was preoccupied with random thoughts. He was not himself tonight. And this was evident to Varadh Agnihotri, his elder brother, who sat opposite to him, attempting to read his mind. After all these years of practice, it was a piece of cake for his younger brother to mask his thoughts with his steeled expression even though there was a thunderstorm on the inside. However, this was Varadh- the only person who knew him through and through.
"Mr Shlok Agnihotri! I believe you must be uncomfortable tonight" Varadh said with a sloppy-sly grin pasted on his face. Shlok turned to look at Varadh, with a You-Dont-Say' look loaded with sarcasm, and waved his fists in the air like a child at the candy store. "No Varadh. I'm super-excited about going to a birthday party to sign this frigging deal that we've been trying to close since four months. And you know what we're going to do after that. We are going to blindfold each other and play Pin the Donkey's tail'." And after wiping off the sarcastic look off his face, he continued, "No seriously Varadh! How on earth did you even agree to Mr. nut-case' Kirloskar's idea of a business deal at a birthday party? I just have two questions. One, was he out of his frigging mind? And two, were you out of your frigging mind? I mean how can you even..." And Shlok continued rambling and swearing, to which Varadh dint even give half his ear. This was how his baby brother always was. Calm and quiet on the outside, until someone stepped on his nerve. And then he would snap and not stop until his mood was lighter, or the other person shot himself dead.
Varadh smiled at his thoughts. He was just five years old, when he first saw Shlok as a newborn infant. Ever since then he had been protective of Shlok, although he preferred not to express his protectiveness. And he knew Shlok too preferred to keep his awe and respect for his elder brother under wraps. They were always best friends. The happiness of one reflected off the other. Even though their parents passed away when he was just twelve and Shlok was seven, Varadh brought it on himself to look after his baby brother. He loved Shlok more than anyone in the universe, and always thought of him before his own self. Whatever position they were today, it was because of their love, unity and respect for each other.
Shlok's features were similar to that of their father; in fact, he was a splitting image of Mr. Niranjan Agnihotri. The thirty year old Shlok was gifted with a strong square jaw, a straight aristocratic nose, a masculine mouth and pale green eyes that could drag a confession from a corpse. Both the brothers were similarly built with broad shoulders and a frame of over six feet with an athlete's body, except that Varadh was an inch shorter than Shlok, and inherited his mother's brown eyes with flecks of gold in it. They were certainly popular among the women, and had no trouble having their pick that would last no more than a few days, or rather few nights'. Who could blame them? They were males in their prime, who had extra charges of testosterone in them, that could bring any woman swooning to their feet. However, both didn't have time for relationships and commitments. And no women complained, for they were satisfied in bed. Very, very satisfied! After all, no woman could resist the charm that these filthy rich billionaire's possessed. Not to mention that they were excellent lovers and paid attention to every single detail to the women, who moaned and screamed their name in bed till wee hours of morning.
Shlok was still rumbling when they reached the parking lot of the party. The ambience was beautiful, with lights glowing on the front lawn of the beach house. The house looked full and noisy with people giggling as they clinked their glasses in cheer. The driver opened the door of the stretched vehicle and Shlok cringed his nose after looking around. The house was noisy as hell and the place was full of chatter boxes with drinks and cigars in their hands. Varadh nudged Shlok with his elbow, asking him to replace his frown with a cordial smile. After all, the deal was worth the money! Plastering a smile, both of them walked into the hall of celebration; Varadh holding the file, and Shlok with a huge bouquet of exotic lilies in his hand.
"urrrgghhh" Aastha groaned in frustration as she zipped up her evening gown. Wearing the figure hugging thin-strapped emerald green ankle length velvet gown was not half a herculean task, compared to what she was to go though down at the party. Flipping her dark brown hair back onto one shoulder, she slipped a delicate diamond chain that had tiny emerald stones wrapping the huge diamond. "The emeralds; just like your eyes" her dad said when he gifted the neck piece to her. She applied light gloss and wore her bracelet. One last glance at herself in the mirror, Aastha cursed herself. She hated attending parties, and always found a reason to skip them, until now. This party was organised for her, on the occasion of her 23rd birthday. She loved to spend her special day in peace and quiet, as she did all these years. But not this time.
"How many times do you turn 23?" Her dad had asked her a week back, while planning for the occasion. "But dad! I don't like the idea of so many people in the house. It's my day. Can't I spend it in peaceful solitude?" And before she could plead further, her dad raised his hand in the air, cutting her in between, "Baccha, I've always done what you wanted. I'm just asking a small favour. I've invited all my clients as well. Just think of it as a formal party, where you have to come down and cut a cake, say, to celebrate our happiness. Moreover, if your mom was there, she would have wanted the same" That did it. Aastha had no more arguments. Presently, smiling to herself, she looked at her Mom's picture on the wall, and prayed silently for her blessings from above. After her emotional conversation with her Mom, she straightened herself as she sprayed her expensive perfume, and walked out the door to meet the crowd.
She descended down the stairs and felt all eyes on her. The crowd was a mixed one; some were her friends, some were her Dad's friends whom she knew, and other's she didn't recognise at all. She greeted people with her captivating smile as they wished her Happy Birthday Ms. Kirloskar', and returned a polite Thank You' to everyone.
She made her way through the crowd searching for her dad, who must have been lost talking to one of his friends. After all, such were the occasions where one could meet each other keeping aside their busy schedules, and share stories of interests. She spotted her dad in the midst of the crowd, and started moving in his direction, when a pair of pale green eyes met hers.
"Happy Birthday Ms. Kirloskar" Aastha looked at the brown eyed man who wished her. "I'm Varadh Agnihotri - Your Dad's business acquaintance. And he is..." Varadh said pointing to Shlok. Just then, a particular Mr. Malhotra patted on Varadh's back and drew him aside to talk some business, leaving Shlok to introduce himself to the lovely lady in front of him.
"Shlok Agnihotri. " He said as he extended the bouquet to her. "Many happy returns of the day Ms. Kirloskar" She looked into those eyes, and it captivated her. She felt lost in those deep eyes and his masculine features made her heartbeat stop. This has to be the Greek God himself' she thought to herself, as she extended her hand and said with a ravishing smile, Call me Aastha".
Shlok mouth curved in a smile as he saw her admiring him. In fact, a woman ogling at him was nothing new. But this woman admiring him was a serious boost for his masculine ego. She was an elegant goddess of beauty, and an epitome of grace. For unknown reasons, he repeated her name in a mere whisper, "Aastha", letting the end of her name linger on his lips. Aastha felt her insides melt as she heard her name on his lips. She felt like a teenage girl, with butterflies fluttering around in her tummy.
Just then, her Dad, Mr. Kirloskar, greeted Shlok with a firm handshake, tugged Aastha's arm and drew her aside to introduce her to their distant family members. And Aastha greeted them, occasionally flicking her glance to that Pale-Green-Eyed-Godlike-Man, who returned the favour by keeping his gaze on her whenever she looked at him. Varadh tapped Shlok. "So? Is your mood alright now?" Shlok remained silent, his eyes fixed on someone. Varadh tried to follow his gaze, but there were too many people. Looking back at Shlok, he almost pleaded, "Please bear for a few minutes until this deal is signed, and then we are out from here. I promise" Shlok, with his eyes glued on the bare shouldered birthday girl and a sly grin at his lips, sipped the wine "I'm in no hurry to leave. This night has just begun to be interesting"