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Chapter 10: Kyun . . .
"Has anyone . . . have you ever thought to ask why he did any of this? Doesn't he deserve a chance to tell his side of things?"
Sanam sat up in bed with a jerk, angry at Aa-Rehan's words still running through her head. The way they had been running through her head for the past few hours. She groaned looking at the clock. It was 4 AM, and she still couldn't sleep. She hadn't been able to sleep all night because of the stunt Re-the Nawab, she emphasized darkly to herself, had pulled.
Aahil Raza Ibrahim. Her heartbeat stuttered when his chocolaty brown eyes flashed into her mind. His face . . . his cold expression as he had passed her by. They were all stuck in her mind. He was Aahil Raza Ibrahim. He was Aahil. She swallowed with difficulty.
Getting up with a sigh, she grabbed a sweater, pulling it over her pajamas for warmth against the cool night air, and walked downstairs. The house was dark, moonlight coming in through a couple of windows to slightly illuminate the space. It was enough for someone who knew the house as well as she did to navigate her way to the doors leading out to the garden. Hearing the soft whisper of a sound, she turned her head to look around, but there was nothing.
Stepping outside, she softly closed the door behind her, hoping that her movements hadn't awakened the other household members. Stepping outside, she breathed in the night air, her mind turning to the scene earlier this evening when the family had returned from the party. For a long time, there had been silence . . . dark, unrelenting silence. No one had been brave enough to say a word for the longest time.
"I never wanted to say I told you so," Asad burst out. "This wasn't about me being right."
All eyes flew toward him, the lone male standing in the center of the room. He wore a frown on his face, worry clouding those handsome features.
"I just wanted to protect my daughter!" he finally explained, his eyes pained . "You think I was happy saying that you couldn't be with the man you loved?" He looked at Seher. "You think it doesn't hurt my heart to realize that my daughter was incredibly hurt tonight, and that boy, who I was beginning to think of as an addition to our family, didn't even bother to explain to us or to her what had happened before he revealed himself like that to the world?" He looked at Sanam, wincing to see the tears falling from Sanam's eyes. "I only want my treasures . . . my daughters to be happy. I only want you to be happy," he repeated, looking at both of them.
Sanam walked over to her father, and silently wrapped him in a hug, her body shaking with the force of her emotions. She felt arms go around the two of them, knowing it was Seher. And then more arms, as their mother and Badi Ammi joined in.
Taking a deep breath in the cool night air, she began to walk, hoping her body would tire itself out and she would finally be able to sleep. But it wasn't helping at all. Her eyes went to the lawn furniture where they had sat and imbibed many cups of chai. She wandered further out, her steps moving her away from those reminders, but escape from the intimate memories itself was not possible.
She encountered the spot where they had sat on the grass, their eyes trained on the starry sky. It was the spot where they had seen the falling stars and made their wishes. Her eyes filled with tears, which she blinked furiously away. She would not cry. Just because he had made a mockery of their starry night, he could not make her cry.
She moved further way, wandering to the boundary of their land, her intent only to get far away from any hint of him. She screamed softly, realizing that she couldn't get away from him at all when they shared a da*ned wall!
She groaned in frustration, but tried to quiet her mind. In the darkness, where she had nothing but her own thoughts to deal with, she finally realized one thing. She didn't feel fear. She wasn't afraid that he was a cold-blooded murderer. There had to be some sort of explanation. The rational part of her knew that. But what she did feel today, what she felt burning inside of her right now, was the burn of betrayal. And that betrayal hurt so much. Mixed in with that hurt, there were strong hints of anger.
He had lied to her! Every time he let her call him some other man's name, he lied to her. Every time, he hid any bit of himself from her, he lied to her. Any time . . . he told her he loved her, he lied to her. She sobbed near silently, the tears beginning to fall and fall in earnest. There was nothing that she could do to stop them this time. She ruthlessly wiped them away, bringing herself back under control.
The sounds of birds chirping in the lightening sky brought her out of her increasingly morose thoughts. As she had walked the garden, and then further out onto their property . . . dawn had come. And the sun had appeared over the horizon. She blinked, her eyes feeling so swollen. The weight on her heart had only grown heavier, and she still wasn't sure what to do. All she knew was that she wasn't ready to give up, but she wasn't ready to give in, either.
She walked closer to the gate that connected their properties. A small gate . . . placed there for some old, forgotten purpose. It had always been locked, at least for as long as she remembered. The cold metal of the gate itself had become rusted from lack of use. As a child she had wondered about the families that might have wanted that connection, but those thoughts had fallen by the wayside when she had grown up.
"There you are!" a female voice called out in the chill light of dawn, cutting through the soothing sounds of dawn with cruel harshness.
Sanam whirled around, her brow wrinkling in confusion when she realized there was no one there. It took her a moment to realize that these were voices from the other side of the wall. From the side . . . where the Nawab lived.
"Shazia, what are you doing here at this time of day?" a confused male voice responded, coming from near the gate that was a few feet away from where Sanam stood.
Her heart began to pound. It was his voice. He had been standing such a short distance away, and she hadn't known. She slowly crept towards the gate, her curiosity winning out over all else.
"Just what were you thinking?" another female voice practically shrieked.
Sanam winced at the high pitch.
"What do you mean, Nazia?" Aahil asked, seeming to have calmed down in the past few seconds.
"Do you have any idea what you've done?" Nazia yelled. "Why did you have to let the world know your secrets? If you were going to pretend to be someone else, why couldn't you do a better job at it? Do you know what it did to our reputation when the truth came out? I mean, my god, we're known as the sisters of a murderer now!"
"What do you want me to do about that?" His voice was utterly dead, no emotion coming through now.
Sanam heard him ask that question, her heart clenching at his tone. She curled her fingers into fists, nails digging into the tender skin of her palms.
"Why couldn't you stay away?" Nazia asked, her voice filled with tears. "Why couldn't you leave us all alone? If you hadn't come back here, no one would have even bothered searching for the truth. Now . . . because of you, we had to leave school. The truth that you revealed last night, without giving us any warning at all . . . was the final nail in the coffin. The rumors were bad enough, but you confirmed it without one though to all of the other people it would affect. How can you be so selfish?"
"I . ..," he began.
"I don't want to hear it! God! You're not just a murderer, but you killed our father! How did you ever think that we could live together as family?"
Those were her priorities? Sanam softly snorted in the silence that had fallen. That girl was ranting about her humiliation first, and then the fact that he may have murdered their father? And not even may. She took what the reporters had said and what he had said as gospel.
"I can't stand to live in this household! It would've been better if Rehan was our brother! We might have been orphans and grown up in an orphanage, but we wouldn't have been your sisters! We wouldn't have been the sisters of a murderer!" Nazia exclaimed with disgust. "You need to make arrangements so that we can go abroad to get away from all of this."
Sanam heard him calling, but there was only the sound of retreating footsteps.
"Is there anything you want to say to me?" he asked.
So, Shazia had stuck around Sanam noted to herself.
"Why did you hide the truth from us?" the other girl asked softly.
Sanam raised her eyebrows at the hurt she could hear in Shazia's words. Well, this was different from what Nazia had just thrown at her brother.
"I would never have blamed you," she continued. "I remember what he used to do to you. I. . ." There was a brief silence. "He was getting worse. Nazia has suppressed those memories. She's just angry that her loser boyfriend dumped her when the truth came out. Honestly, I think he was a conman, and the truth freaked him out." She took a deep breath. "I don't blame you. But you didn't trust us. Do you have any idea how that makes me feel? I . . . I don't think that I can be around you right now."
Sanam heard the sounds of quick retreat, leaving behind a fraught silence. She wondered what he was thinking. Whether those words had hurt him . . . or was he as cold as he had been last night when he had walked by her with nary a hint of emotion? What happened last night had been his choice, but she didn't want him hurting, either.
She jumped when she heard a thump from the other side of the wall. And then a muffled groan. Just what was he doing? She moved closer to the gate, peeking through it. She could only see his legs, encased in old, washed out jeans. A sense of deja vu hit her. This scene was entirely too familiar. How couldn't it be? When that one night and that one meeting had been the focus of many of her obsessive thoughts over the years?
One thing was different. She could actually see him this time around in the morning light . . . and a with a much friendlier gate between them. The bars were far apart enough that she could lean in and see so much more. She saw the legs shift and that body slump down onto the grass. Her fingers curled around the metal bars of the gate, as she struggled with seeing him so defeated. Her fingers gripped the metal tighter when she heard his broken sigh of defeat.
"You think that I wanted to be the Nawab?" he asked into the empty morning light. "I asked Rehan to take my place so that I could live in peace. How was I to know that those rabid wolves wouldn't leave my past alone? If I had had a choice . . . I would've lived out my life as the orphan boy who didn't know his own past."
She rested her head against the metal, her eyes focused only on him. She saw him turn his head towards his home. Saw his hands clench into fists at his side.
"Do you have any idea what I lost because of my past?"
She saw his head fall into his hands, his fingers clenching around fistfuls of hair.
"Rather than hide from it any longer, I did all of us a favor by revealing it. It won't be hanging over our heads like the Sword of Damocles, saving us from dreaming too long. What if I had gotten used to the dream?" He thumped his hand on the grass beside him. "If the truth came out too late, I would have never let her go. No matter how much she may have begged me."
She inhaled sharply at his admission, her fingers clenching so tightly around the metal that they turned white.
His head turned at that noise, his eyes meeting hers through the gate. He frowned, silently wondering if she had heard his words. Of course she had. After all, hadn't he been just shouting his sentiments to the dawn sky moments ago?
"We've got to stop meeting like this," she joked lightly, seeing him spring up and glare at her.
Her eyes moved over his tired features, wondering if her eyes reflected that same despair that she saw in his. Her heart clenched, realizing that while he had hurt her last night . . . it wasn't as if he had escaped unscathed either. He took two steps back, away from her.
She saw the worry wrinkling his brows . . . his unkempt hair, proof of his restless fingers running through it hundreds of time. A cute little tuft was sticking out in the back, making her fingers tingle to smooth it down. She saw the stubble covering his jaw, the wrinkled shirt, half unbuttoned.
And she saw how he stiffened . . . raised his jaw at her, beginning to hide all of his emotions from her. The pain disappeared . . . the despair and the melancholy melted away until there was only the arrogant Nawab staring back at her. Until he was the man who had nothing left to say to her. He turned and began to walk away.
"I'm mad at you," she said, knowing that no matter how softly she spoke he would hear her.
He stopped in his tracks, his back to her.
"I'm mad at you for lying. Not for the . . . murder," she explained, watching his shoulders hunch in on themselves at her words. "I'm mad that you told me that you loved me, but never told me who you were. You couldn't' trust me that much."
He turned to look at her, his eyes focusing on her fingers gripping the gate.
"The dreams that I had . . . the thoughts that kept revolving in my head, all of that confusion went away when the truth came out. I wasn't going crazy. You were the one that affected my life . . you are the reason that I am who I am today. You are that boy I met years ago . . . and you couldn't tell me the tr-truth!" Her voice broke on those last words. "Even now, you would have just walked away. Why couldn't you tell me that you were that little boy?"
"Because that's all I would have been!" he shouted at her, striding back towards her. His fingers gripped the metal above her hands, his face so close that she could feel his breath against her lips. "I wasn't going to be that abused little boy!" He stopped, swallowing with difficulty. "I wasn't going to be someone to be pitied. Not to you!"
She slipped her fingers down, placing them over his to fiercely grip his hands. His hands were so cold. He had been out here as long as she had, maybe longer. He had been mere yards away the entire time, and she hadn't known. "You were never just a poor little boy to me," she said with precision. "I never pitied you. How much do you know me that you would think that me finding out you were Aahil Raza Ibrahim would have changed my view of you?"
The muscle in his jaw twitched, as he stared at her silently. His fingers remained stationary under hers. "That's easy to say," he answered abruptly. "You can't tell me that your father didn't tell Seher to stay away from the ex-convict. That he didn't reiterate that last night when the truth came out about who the real convict was. You shouldn't even be talking to me," he said scornfully.
"Mr. Aahil Raza Ibrahim," she said, moving her face closer to his, her lips millimeters away from his, "Don't assume anything. We're nowhere near being done. Neither my father nor you get to decide what I should do."
He jerked away, his fingers slipping from under hers, his body creating distance between the two of them.
She let him go, refusing to hold on or use force in any way. "You're not going to get away that easily, Aahil Raza Ibrahim." It was her only warning before she walked away, leaving only a surprised silence behind her.
Seher sat in the greenhouse, her body scrunched up on a bench, her arms wrapped around her legs. She stared at the orchid blooming in front of her, her mind flitting from thought to thought. Last night the truth had come out about the Nawab. He was an ex-convict. He was a murderer, according to him. He had been found guilty for killing his own father.
But . . . he wasn't the man that everyone had thought him to be. The man that she had fallen in love with was actually someone else entirely.
Rehan Imran Qureshi. Rehan.
"Rehan," she said that name out loud, but her mind seemed to have trouble grasping this new reality. For days she had struggled with the truth that he may have some dangerous secret in his past. She had dealt with her father's anger towards her obstinate insistence on staying with him.
But the truth was something altogether different. Her mind repeated those truths once more. He was Rehan Imran Qureshi. He wasn't the Nawab. She knew that much, but what else did she know about him? She rested her head on her arms.
Was he the orphan Rehan that he himself had described . . the child who had no one in the world until he had met the Nawab and called him his own? How had he lived his life before they had met? How alone had he been? How much had he suffered?
Or the more practical questions. Where had he lived? Where had he gone to school? Was he really a businessman? Or was he a lawyer? What did he do at the company if he wasn't the owner? Had he really come back from overseas? How had he met the Nawab? Why would he pretend to be someone else?
Had any of it been the truth? Did he feel anything for her?
She sighted heavily, raising her eyes to look at the orchid once more.
Leaving his emotions and past aside, she began to ponder her own emotions. How was she supposed to feel about this? He wasn't the Nawab. Which meant he wasn't the ex-convict. He wasn't a murderer. That made her happy.
But she knew nothing about him. He'd kept the truth from her. A truth as basic as his name . . . he hadn't trusted her enough to let her in. That made her sad. And it made her angry. She clenched her fingers into fists across her knees. It made her feel betrayed.
Where she had been falling in love . . . he hadn't been falling. In fact, he had stood steadfast and kept his secrets. He'd kept her out. The feelings of betrayal far outweighed the feelings of relief that had stolen into her heart when her own sister's heard had been breaking.
Seher walked away from the group that she had been talking to about the numbers for the gala. She felt confident that they would be able to handle the rest of the work. After all, they did this every year.
Waving to her mother and Badi Ammi, she made her way to the bar, needing cold water more than anything right now. Adjusting the slipping pallu of her red sari, she grabbed a glass of water before walking away from the bar. Drinking down the entire glass in one gulp, she left the glass on a nearby table. She then turned towards the bathroom, planning on touching up her makeup before the pictures were taken. The pallu of her sari slipped once more, and as she looked down to adjust it once more, her foot landed on dirty dishes that someone had left on the floor.
"Fu--," she shrieked softly, as she began to fall to the floor. It all happened so quickly . . . the slipping . . . the falling . . . and then the landing. But it wasn't the unforgiving floor this time. She landed in strong arms, the intoxicating scent of the man who had caught her enfolding her in its warmth. She looked up into the most beautiful eyes, her own lips smiling in response to the innocent smile that he sent her way.
"Are you okay?"
The words were softly spoken, the huskiness in that voice burrowing deep inside her heart. It made her want to go on hearing that voice forever. His looks had captivated her from afar, but it was his voice . . . his scent and his warmth that trapped her even more.
"I'm fine," she forced out on a gasp, clenching her stomach when she realized that his hand had landed there in his bid to catch her.
He set her back up, holding her steady until she found her feet. She gazed up at him mutely, her heart still thundering at the accidental embrace. She watched as he reached down and grabbed something. Her eyes followed his movements, and saw that he had her sari pallu in his hand. She blushed as he placed it over her shoulder, covering her once more.
"If you're sure you're okay, then I'll be on my way," he said, his hand falling away. He stepped back, putting some distance between them. Nodding his head at her in goodbye, he turned back toward the ballroom.
"Wait!" Seher called out. She wasn't sure what she would say when he turned back to her, but she knew that she didn't want him to leave yet.
"Yes?" he asked, turning back to look at her questioningly.
"I've lost my phone," she threw out there in desperate explanation.
He crinkled his brow at her, wondering where she was going with this. "How can I be of help?"
"Could I use your phone to call mine? Maybe it's nearby and I'm just not finding it," she asked with a smile. "I promise I'll give it right back," she assured him when he seemed to hesitate.
She dialed her number on his phone, and then winced when her cell went off in her clutch. "Da**it! I thought that I had left you with mom!" She silently yelled at the cell in her purse. She raised her eyes up to his and bit her lip, wondering how she would explain this to him.
His shoulders shook, his hand covering his mouth. She could see the laughter in his eyes.
"I swear that . . ." Her shoulders slumped. She couldn't lie anymore. "At least you have my number now," she murmured defiantly. "I'll definitely save your number," she confessed bravely. But that seemed to be one admission too many. "I'm going to just go now," she muttered, making a break for it.
His fingers shot out and grabbed her wrist, arresting her escape.
She turned back to look at him questioningly, blushing scarlet at the laughter in his eyes.
"Don't you think that it would be better for us to talk a little more?" he asked softly. "Maybe a dance if you have nothing better to do?"
She smiled, eagerly nodding her head. From the first moment she had seen him, she had felt an attraction. From the first moment that he had held her in his arms, she had felt a fire between them.
Reaching out a hand, she grasped his hand. She fully intended to explore that fire. She intended to fully enjoy him. She flashed him what she hoped was a flirty grin.
Aahil Raza Ibrahim would be hers. The Nawab of Bhopal, she trembled slightly at those words, would be hers one day.
Rehan Imran Qureshi. Not the Nawab of Bhopal.
Her attraction to him had made a dummy out of her at the most inopportune of times. Where she had wanted to look the sophisticate, her own schemes had made her the fool. And she had happily been a fool in love.
Just like Sanam. Seher bit her lip, wondering how Sanam was feeling right now. The two hadn't had a chance to talk. In fact, she doubted either of them wanted to say anything right now. But she'd seen her sister leave the house this morning and go out back, just as she herself had been coming in. She'd kept an eye on her while Sanam had paced, but when her steps had taken her further from the house, Seher had gone back to her room.
Her nails dug into the soft skin of her arms, as she dealt with another reality. Sanam was her twin, and the two of them had shared all the happiness and tragedies in their lives together. Today, when she knew her sister was feeling the same things she had felt for the past week, she couldn't be there to share Sanam's grief. There was something she had that Sanam didn't; the knowledge that the man she loved wasn't a murderer. And despite how confused she felt right now, she was relieved that that particular truth wasn't one she had to worry about.
"What do you mean why would we go to dinner and a movie? I want to date you! That was supposed to be our first date!" she burst out, surprised at the blank expression on his face. "Why do you think I've been chasing you around? Why did I come to your home uninvited? Why did I peek at you from behind pillars while you read a book?! God forbid that you do something exciting like swim around naked in the pool you have in the middle of your living room!"
"I never hinted in the smallest way that I thought of you like that," he answered with reserve.
She stared into his eyes, unable to see beyond the wall he had erected between them so suddenly. Without wanting to . . . without meaning to, she began to cry. She silently cursed her weakness and the tears that had begun to fall. She hadn't wanted to be so pathetic in front of this man.
She wasn't this woman. She really wasn't, but being around him confused her and made her feel too fragile. It was all because he felt like the one, but he felt nothing. Turning, she began to run, intent only on escape. But the tears blinded her and she tripped over a forgotten hose, falling to the floor. Her knees hit hard against the concrete, causing her to cry out in pain.
She felt strong hands helping her up. She felt his callused fingers brushing at her knees, cleaning the blades of grass and dirt off. Wincing at the pain his touch caused, she looked down to see blood on her knees through the rip in her slacks. She pulled away, intent on getting away and licking her wounds in solitude. She couldn't look at him. She struggled fiercely to get free, but his hold on her was too strong.
"Come with me," he urged her gently. "Let me take care of those scratches. If we don't treat them now they could get infected."
She stared up at him, shaking her head at how calm he seemed. "You're right," she said softly. "If I don't take care of these wounds, they'll only get infected. The way I feel for you is like an injury," she muttered balefully, driving home the point just in case he didn't get it. "The more I'm around you, the more I'll be infected," she uttered grimly, wiping her tears away. "You don't want to date me, that's fine. But don't pretend to care." She practically spat those words at him. Yanking her arm free, she began to walk away. The sudden pain in her knee caused her to cry out and stumble, and she began to fall again.
His arms caught her once more, picking her up easily.
She stiffened in his arms, ordering him to let her go.
"Just be quiet!" he barked at her. "You are not getting away until I take care of you! You're going to hurt yourself even more if you remain this stubborn!"
"You're hurting me even more by being like this. Stop pretending you care!" she shouted back at him. "What right do you have to tend to me? To touch me?"
"I have the right because you've given me the right!" he retorted. "I'm not giving it up. And if giving it up means that you will hurt yourself even more, then I'm not giving you up, either!"
"What the hell does that mean?" she angrily demanded, confusion appearing across her face.
"It means that we're going on that damned first date," he growled at her. "And then we'll go on a second date. And then a third. We'll date so much that you'll grow tired of dating me!"
"Well, what if I don't want to now?" Seher demanded on an outraged gasp.
"You don't get to change your mind!" he shot back at her. "We'll da*n well date now! Someone has to take care of you!"
"Fine then!" she said, a small smile playing across her lips.
"Fine!" he responded, striding back into his home with her in his arms. .
Seher's eyes landed on the orchid once more, her fingers reaching out to touch the soft petals. But before she could touch it, she pulled back, afraid that her touch would harm the flower itself. Sighing, she laid her head against the back of the bench. Her thoughts turned back to those happy moments.
When they'd gone on their first date, she'd been so happy. She'd been so excited that the adrenaline had flowed all night in her bloodstream. She'd trembled when he'd gotten close and then when he'd gotten closer. She'd wanted to touch his face, and trace his smiling lips. Her only desire had been to grab him in a hug and never let him go. She'd been completely giddy, like a young girl with her very first crush.
"Where are we going today?"
"To an orphanage I found out about from Rehan. He grew up at that orphanage. He likes to go there and spend time with the children, but he can't do it as much due to the business. He asked me to take over some donations."
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"Are you ready to head out, Aahil?"
"Just a minute. I promised the boys that I would play some soccer with them. And the girls wanted to talk with you. They said that they had some questions about fashion."
"Oh, well, I'll try my best," Seher said with a smile.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"The orphanage administrator asked us to stay for dinner. The kids requested it. You don't mind?"
"I don't mind," she answered softly, seeing the peace that had come over his face the longer they had stayed at the orphanage. It was reason enough, even if she hadn't had the kids beseeching faces to back their request up.
She'd been aggressive in chasing him, because she knew he was something precious. And she hadn't been ashamed because he'd caught her . . . with his words . . . his sweetness . . . the good that was clearly inside of him. She'd known from near the beginning that she would never feel this deeply again. His every touch . . . his every look made her tremble. But had any of it been real for him?
It was only now she realized that when he had spoken about Rehan's past and taken her to the orphanage, that had been him sharing his own past with her. He had been telling her some truths in his own way. He had been one of those little boys, so desperate for love. So desperate for someone to just care a little bit. He wasn't who he had said he was, but there had been moments of sincerity.
"And this is my favorite flower," Seher said, touching the petals of the orchid. "Mom has a lot of these in the greenhouse, but there's one particular color I love so much. It's so hard to find though." She stared at Aahil smiling at her, his eyes focused so intensely on her. "I once thought that it was the most beautiful thing in the world," she said softly. "That is, until I saw your smile."
His eyes widened at her compliment, and he raised a silent brow at her effusiveness.
"Now, are you going to tell me what you've been hiding since before dinner? Believe me, you've gotten all the women in this household extremely curious. Mom was extremely unhappy that she wouldn't get to see what was in the package before she dragged off dad for tea and mithai inside."
He carefully took out the present and handed it over.
Her eyes widened when she unwrapped it, surprised at the contents. "How did you know?" she squeaked. "I just told you this orchid was my favorite flower! I didn't even mention the color."
"Mental telepathy?" he quipped.
She shook her head at him, pursing her lips.
"You mentioned it once when we walked past a gallery," he explained. "There was a painting in the window."
"I said it once and you remembered?" Her heart was melting right in front of him, and she couldn't do anything about it. He made her feel so precious . . . so treasured by acts like this. This . . . this was what she loved about him.
"I remember everything you say," he whispered, stepping closer.
Her heart melted a little bit more. She reached up, circling his neck with her arms and pulled him closer. Their lips were so close that she could feel the heat of his lips brushing against her lips. Closing that distance, she touched her lips to the side of his mouth. Pulling back, she grabbed the orchid and placed it in her favorite place in the greenhouse. "Now I'll see it whenever I come in here," she declared. Turning back, she flashed him a smile.
Reaching out a hand, he grabbed her wrist and slowly pulled her close. His hold on her hand was loose enough that she could easily escape. He pulled her so slowly that she could easily deflect his advances, but she did nothing of the kind.
Pulling her into his arms, he placed one of her hands over his heart. "Do you feel that?"
She stared up at him, and silently nodded her head. She said nothing, knowing that words wouldn't get past the lump in her throat.
"It beats only for you. I love you so much. It's the kind of love that makes me afraid. What if I lose you one day because of something I did? What if I lose you because of my loyalty to another? Would you forgive me?"
"I'd forgive you anything," she said softly. "You just have to trust me enough to tell me the truth." Pulling his head down, she placed her lips against his, seeking to tell him the secrets of her heart with the passion of her kiss.
His only response was to pull her closer, his lips answering her fervent demands.
Aa-Rehan had understood her in a way that no one besides Sanam had. He understood her crazy schemes. He encouraged her dreams. He had been understanding every time she came running just so she could be with him.
At least he had until he'd stopped.
She stared at the orchid. It was dying now. Raising an orchid was difficult. Just like protecting love was difficult. It seemed that she just didn't have that ability. He'd been hiding so much, and she'd never even suspected. How sad was that?
When dad had told her the rumors, she hadn't believed them. How could a man who smiled so sweetly be capable of murder? She didn't believe that he was capable of killing anyone. But before she could ask him anything, he shut the door between them. There had been no contact. She'd never had the chance to demand any answers.
"Stop right there!" she called out, striding down the hallway. "You're not going to get away from me that easily, Aahil!" she barked at him, racing towards him. She'd spent the last half hour looking for him, searching carefully, hoping that she wouldn't get caught before finding him. She'd finally found him in an unassuming corner of the home, a surprising place to find the Nawab of Bhopal.
He stood in the doorway, in a navy blue suit. He was frozen, his eyes wide at her sudden appearance. Shaking his head, he stepped back into the room he had been about to exit and then slammed the door shut.
She stared at the closed door in disbelief, her face crumpling for a moment. Stiffening, she raced to the door and banged on it in anger. "Aahil, open the door. Please!" There was no response from the other side. She knew he was there. She could feel his presence. Heck, she could see his silhouette through the frosted glass.
"Why won't you talk to me?" she asked, the pain evident in her voice. "I know that something is going on! You're hiding something. The rumors have started to spread, but I don't believe them. I won't believe anything until you tell me the truth. You don't have to hide anything from me, Aahil," she said brokenly. "There should be no secrets between us."
The door creaked, as if he was leaning against it. She rested her forehead against that same door, almost convincing herself that she could feel his heat through the pane of glass.
"I have to admit that I haven't shared everything with you," she said softly. "And I'm sure there are things that you haven't told me."
There was no answer.
"Okay, I'll begin. Did I tell you what happened on my birthday one time? When Sanam and I were getting ready for our second birthday, playing our little hearts outside while our parents set up the party decorations inside . . . a psycho killer got inside our home and attacked our parents. She killed my aunt, Haya's mother."
She paused, but there was no response from the other side. Talking about it, even when she had no memories, was really difficult. Hearing no response from him, made it even harder. She bit her lip, and forced herself to go on. If she couldn't talk to him about his, how could she expect him to share his secrets with her?
"Well, my Badi Ammi went inside to investigate . . . something must have tipped her off. She left us there with strict instructions to stay. I don't know if you know this, but there's a gate between our houses . . . in the backyard. Khan Mansion is surrounded by fences, to protect us, but there is one gate. And me, being the inquisitive gal that I am, I must have decided that I was going to go towards that mysterious gate. I must have, since that was the only way I could have escaped. From there, I must have wandered out onto the street." She stopped, taking deep breaths to push those dark emotions down. "They didn't find me for two days. My parents found me in a brothel. I had been found by some scum and sold, but I don't remember any of that. I don't remember anything, so I don't know what happened in those days. I don't remember anything." She wiped her tears, trying to ignore the choking sensation that was overriding all other thought. She would not let her past get to her like this. "Those are my secrets," she said softly, raising a hand and placing it against the shadow of his silhouette.
"Please leave," he ordered softly.
Her hand fell away, the hurt burning deep inside of her as she struggled with his response. "Do you like someone else?"
There was only silence from behind the door.
"Do you like Haya?" she asked with difficulty, pushing the words out. Saying those words allowed her to take some of that ugliness that had been churning inside of her heart and throw it out there for him to witness. "She's a special person, so I could understand . . ."
"What?" he burst out, opening the door and staring at her in disbelief.
"At the school fundraiser," she said with difficulty. "You were staring at her the entire time. You were so careful of her needs. You went there to support her, which any one would do," she said, seeing him open his mouth. "But you ordered tea for her. You helped her with the children. You . . . well, okay there was nothing untoward in your behavior," she said, holding up a hand. "But I saw the look in your eyes!" she wailed, the hurt now choking her. "You like her better than me! And if you do, that's fine! But just tell me so I know what the hell is going on," she yelled at him.
He stood there, staring at her incredulously.
"Say something!" she continued, reaching out to grab his collar. Her fingers crumpled it, and a distant part of her wondered what he would do now that he wasn't all impeccable.
"It is nothing like that! You don't understand," he finally got out. He looked away, as if unable to meet her questioning gaze.
"Then explain yourself," she entreated. "I'm giving you the chance." When there was only silence between them, she uttered the one word that expressed her feelings. "Coward."
He pulled her hands down, gripping them in his.
Her eyes went from his eyes down to those hands, holding her wrists. His hands were warm, his grip was gentle. But the look in his eyes was so . . . blank. He had turned off, and she couldn't reach him.
"Re-Aah, baba! What's going on here?" Lateef's voice called out from behind her.
Seher felt hands gripping her around the waist, and pulling her away. She struggled silently, refusing to look away from his eyes. She would not make this easy for him.
"Don't make this harder on yourself!" Lateef urged, keeping a gentle hold on her waist.
She could only watch in frustration when he stepped back into the room and shut the door.
"Here, I'm going to take you to this room," Lateef said, pulling her down the hallway. The room that Lateef brought her to was nearer to the ballroom. She sat her down and gave her a mirror. "You have mascara running down your face. Clean it."
Seher just shook her head at Lateef. "Why would I care about my makeup?"
"Woman, have some pride," Lateef barked at her, her hands gentle as she wiped away the runny mascara on Seher's cheeks.
"What do I care about pride?" Seher muttered angrily, snatching the napkin away and wiping at the mascara quickly. "I practically begged him to tell me anything."
"And that didn't get you much, did it?" Lateef said, with a pat to her shoulder. "These men . . . they're hiding too much. You can't even imagine."
"What do you know?" Seher asked, her eyes going wide.
"Nothing!" Lateef said. "Just leave me alone, I have to go help Aahil baba." She strode out, adjusting her braid. "Now, you two. Don't let her go anywhere except for the ballroom. She's wily, so keep an eye on her!"
She needed to forget this! Raising her arms up, she violently waved them around her head, hoping to brush away her thoughts. The loud crash of something hitting the floor brought her back to her senses. Her eyes fell to the floor, widening when she saw what she had done in her distraction. The orchid pot was broken, the flower crushed.
Tears began to fall from her eyes, wetting her cheeks. She angrily wiped them away. What was she doing? Why did she care so much? Why did she care so much when he found it so easy to walk away?
Why had she sat up all last night, sitting in the dark, mourning the betrayal of a man who seemingly had given her no thought at all? His lies had shaken her belief in herself.
"Da*n you, Rehan Imran Qureshi," she muttered angrily. "You're not going to get away that easily."
Sanam entered the greenhouse and came in to sit down beside Seher. She stared at the remnants of the orchid and the pot on the floor.
"I don't know how to feel," Seher admitted, resting her head against Sanam's shoulder. "There are these conflicting feelings inside of me, and I don't know which one should win out."
"You have the right to your feelings," Sanam said, patting her sister's head. She began to run her fingers through Seher's hair, her fingers gently tugging at the ends of it before stopping. "You were so strong when the rumors spread," Sanam murmured. "You fought Abu and your own fears; you were ready to fight the world for him."
"I was ready to fight everyone for him. I was ready to give everything up for him," Seher agreed. "But he didn't want any of that. He pulled back before I could do anything. He decided he didn't want me."
"I know that you feel betrayed," Sanam said, "But I'm sure that a part of you must be incredibly happy that he wasn't the ex-convict Nawab. So, let that part of you be happy. And I'm going to do what you were going to do. I'm going to ask him."
"What I don't get," Seher said, raising her head to look at her twin, "Is why is Rehan now hiding from me? A part of me," she said grimacing, "just wants to give up. But giving up means never seeing him again. And he sure as hell is not going to follow me. He plans to let me go."
"You're telling me," Sanam muttered. "He won't even talk to me. He won't give me a chance. I'm so angry," she muttered. "But if I gave up, I'd give up on us. I'm not ready to do that yet."
"Then why don't we go over there and confront those idiots?" Seher asked, smiling at Sanam with some of that old sparkle.
"Let's go," Sanam said agreeably. "But we can't go through the front."
"Yep, Lateef will be there," Seher agreed.
"He was too good a guard last night. It really makes me wonder about those men," Sanam noted.
"And their need to hide behind Lateef," Seher finished that thought.
The two looked at each other and began to laugh.
"Is there something wrong with us that we're laughing at a time like this?" Seher asked, ruffling Sanam's hair.
"If we don't laugh, we'd be crying instead," Sanam said, straightening out her hair after pushing Seher's hand away. "Let's go, sister," Sanam said, standing up and holding her hand out to Seher.
Seher put her hand in hers, and allowed Sanam to pull her up. "And, I take it that we'll be using . . .,"
"The gate at the end of the lawn," Sanam said. "Do you have the key?"
"We'll find it," Seher said.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
And an hour later, the two were in the back lawn of the Ibrahim Mansion. They'd snuck in and were near the house now. Seher giggled, the rush of sneaking in having gone to her head.
"Shh," Sanam admonished her, placing a finger over her lips.
Seher shook her head at her, but quieted down. They were so close now that defeat at this point would be a real shame.
"I have no hope, but you do."
Sanam's eyes widened on hearing Aahil's voice.
"You can be with the woman you love. You don't have to give her up out of some misguided sense of honor. You won't have to tell them the truth. No one will know, Rehan," he urged.
The two men were standing on the back verandah, too focused on each other to see Sanam and Seher standing mere feet away.
"How can you say that, Aahil bhai?" Rehan asked brusquely. "Someday the truth will come out. You can't just hide it and hope that it never sees the light of day. And then imagine the pain she'd feel. I thought for a while that it would be okay. I convinced myself that I could be with her and no one would be hurt."
"Then keep on thinking that way," Aahil urged. "No one will ever know."
"That was before all of Bhopal found out about you, Aahil bhai. Weren't you hoping for the same thing?" he asked sadly. "It won't be long before my truth come out."
"What truth? What are you worried about? There is nothing linking you to her!" Aahil argued.
"My mother killed their family, Aahil bhai!" Rehan yelled in frustration. "She killed Asad Ahmed Khan's father. She killed Zoya Farooqui's father. She killed Asad Ahmed Khan's sister. She tried to kill their mother and father. How can I hide that?" His voice broke. Rehan stopped, his throat working fiercely. He angrily swiped at his eyes before continuing. "Do you know what Seher told me last night?" He stopped once more. "My mother did all of that. I am her son! I come from her. I share her blood. How could it not matter? I could never love or live with her, knowing the truth that I was hiding from her."
Sanam gasped loudly, her heart furiously beating in her chest. She raised a hand to cover her mouth, her mind unable to comprehend the words that she had just heard.
The two men turned to stare at them, their eyes wide with horror.
"Seher . . . "
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
you kidding me?!!"
A/N: Sorry for the wait. Here's a chapter focused on SeHan. While this story is about SaHil, but SeHan is an integral part of SaHil, as well. I thought I should write a little something on them, as well. Hope you liked it. Leave a comment if you did!
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