The predicament in which she was stuck was such that the more she struggled to escape the harder he clutched. Nevertheless, Priya refused to give up in her attempts and Ram in his quest to assert his dominance. The glares they exchanged were cold as ice in contrast to the heated emotions arising amongst them. The sinister, crooked smile on Ram’s thin lips infuriated Priya further. It boiled her blood to think that this man could channel such amusement from her suffering. The burn in her eyes began blurring her vision.
“No!” Priya’s ego scolded, sensing defeat. “You can’t cry. It’s a sign of weakness. Do you want him to win?”
But it was too late. Priya’s heart had managed to lodge itself in her throat and no matter how much she gulped, it was impossible for her to swallow her emotions. She could no longer pretend that his pretentious conduct had no impact on her conscience. Much to Priya’s surprise, as the first few drops of tears dripped from her glistening red eyes Ram jerked his hand back abruptly, setting her loose. Priya observed his expression suddenly morph from sinister to petrified, as though he had seen a reflection of a ghost in her eyes. But for Priya, the risk of sitting and analyzing the alarmed look on Ram’s face far outweighed the pleasure she gained from doing the same. Kicking the blankets aside, Priya jumped out of bed fisting a pillow and chucking it roughly at his head. “Asshole!” She cursed, as Ram dodged her fluffy bullet with surprising finesse. With the backs of her hands Priya hastily dried her moist cheeks. The warrior within her had resurfaced from the shadow of surrender and Ram wisely assumed given the threatening glare in her eyes, it would serve him better if he kept his mouth shut. Angry men are but puppets to their masculine egos. However, angry women are like lethal serpents, calm in their approach yet venomous in their attack. Seeing her cry, Ram had assumed that perhaps he might have overstepped his boundaries. But the ease with which her tears had vanished left him feeling manipulated as though he was the targeted prey all along. Priya eyed Ram with a frown on her face. Her glare screamed frustration and hate but her silence was most unbearable.
“What?” Ram piped up, failing to tolerate her unwavering look of contempt. “It’s not like I was actually going to do anything. It was just a joke and besides you started it.”
“A joke...” Priya screeched throwing another pillow his way to dodge. “I didn’t expect this from you of all people, Mr. Kapoor.”
Ram watched on quietly, puzzled by her bizarre behaviour. Prior to her statement he had no idea that she held any expectations of him. “What the hell are you talking about Priya? And for god sake stop throwing pillows at me dammit.” Ram got up and out of bed, chucking the pillow he had caught not too long ago, to the side of the covers.
With the bed being the oversized barrier Priya spoke her mind boldly. “You know what Mr. Kapoor, I was so mad at you when I first found out what you had done. Getting me to sign those papers, you could have just asked. Honestly, I was nervous coming here and living here with you because let’s face it, we aren’t exactly compatible. But then I thought a man who has such immense love for his mother, who defended his sister-in-laws honour above his own brother, would at least, if anything, have some respect for me as a woman. However, today you proved me wrong yet again.”
Ram looked on with a drizzle of guilt in his glare. Priya’s little spiel was powerful, like a shot of tequila, her words burned as he was forced to take it all in. Although Ram knew in his inner heart that Priya was right, he could never confess his realization to her face. Mostly due to the impact it would have on both their egos. However, there was a strange numbing tingle in his heart, a sensation of remorse which was foreign to him. Fortunately, Ram’s ego had silently devised a comeback of its own, attempting to shatter the building blocks of guilt in which his heart was held captive. “Oh please Priya, you’re the last woman on earth who I would ever try anything of that sort with, so don’t flatter yourself. I have standards...” Even as he spoke, Ram was well aware that the critic of his action wasn’t a question of taste but rather a critical reflection of his now lessened morals. However, Ram had hoped to elicit an irrational outburst from Priya thinking it would somehow even the scores. Priya’s composure was uncanny it drove him insane. Her silence had a way of elevating his level of guilt. And what bothered him the most was the bit about expectations. With that clause intact, Ram was well aware that he had failed in Priya’s eyes yet he couldn’t justify a reason as to why he would care.
Ram could feel Priya’s gaze sear through his soul as he waited for her to respond. But Priya silently shook her head, projecting sheer disappointment before leaving the room.
Ram carried Priya in his tender embrace, down the stairs, his lustful gaze not leaving hers for a minute. She felt like a queen, every inch of her body he cherished beyond her wildest dreams. Reaching the bedroom, to her surprise he marched past their bed and into the luxurious bathroom suite. Eyebrows raised she silently questioned his intentions. He merely smiled, placing her pampered feet gently on the cold tiles. Without a word of notice he stepped forward and kissed her softly, tugging at her warm lips teasing them with unquenched lust. She matched his passion, no coaxing necessary. He fisted her nightgown at her waist pulling it upwards. She allowed him, raising both her arms in the air as she was stripped bare. Goosebumps scaled her skin as he traced his hands along her waist, exploring his playground. His kiss was all consuming and his experienced touch was such that she couldn’t help but teeter between both sensations. The air was cold yet her body ached with a burn, a yearning flame set ablaze within her. Ram hovered over her lips, gasping, his hands relentless in their quest, grasping and tugging over the grooves of her body. He whispered softly, “I figured we’d multitask” placing a line of kisses along the side of her neck. Running her fingers up the length of his back, she responded, “Why not just focus on the task at hand?” His torturous lips shaped into a grin momentarily before stamping light kisses along the base of her neck. Her hands travelled under his shirt and up his chest, she felt a weak shiver course through him as she did so. It was apparent what she wanted and without an ounce of protest, he took his shirt off, throwing it to the floor, not for a second taking his eyes off her. His gaze was razor sharp travelling with precision up the length of her bare body while he unzipped his pants and kicked it off to the side. Reading the need in his eyes was a pleasure in and of itself, no touch necessary. Licking his delicious lips Ram pulled Priya towards him, their bare bodies fitting perfectly into one another like two pieces of an otherwise incomplete puzzle. Bending his knees, he wrapped his arms around her buttocks lifting her up and against his body. She could feel his need stabbing her stomach gently through his boxers. With her arms wrapped loosely around his neck, she looked down into his eyes. There it was that familiar naughty smile on his lips as he whispered, “Darling, I will have no trouble focusing on the task at hand. Especially when that task is so damn sexy...” His subtle wink was more dangerous than he would ever dare to think. If only he knew... Perhaps its better he didn’t. Just imagine the kind of advantage he would have over her if he knew. She thought deeply to herself for a moment as he walked towards the tall glass shower doors. “But then again, maybe sometimes it’s not such a bad thing to surrender complete control”, she finally concluded, setting at ease, her mind, as the initial burst of cold water splashed over them. Her lips quivered as an instant shiver coursed through her body, nothing his touch couldn’t fix. Tilting her chin up, he placed a series of kisses along her lips. He started soft and safe just brushes of their lips, like it was their first time; mingled with a few tugs of her lips, a little bit of roughness in each kiss, as if it was promised to be their last. “I guess it’s true what they say,” Priya began thinking, turning her back to him, shying away. “Variety is the spice of life.” Beads of warm water raced down her bare back as he hovered behind her. Bracing herself, she placed her hands on the foggy glass doors, the anticipation creating a whirl of sensations at the pit of her stomach. He tidied her hair to one side, she moaned as he smothered her back with kisses. Placing his hands over hers on the glass door, he closed the gap of agonizing distance between them. And immediately she felt everything but the soft fabric of his boxers.
Ram lay in bed, tossing and turning, unable to sleep. Punching his pillow, he tried to fluff it as if that was the reason he was up. Kicking the blanket off his body, he turned on his side and shut his eyes tightly. But it was another failed attempt. “This doesn’t make sense,” Ram spoke aloud in the darkness of his room, “Why the hell can’t I sleep?” Turning on his back, Ram grabbed the AC remote, which lay on the night table, nearly knocking down his framed picture. Shutting the AC off Ram lay in silence, not budging at all. He was always a fan of the solitude but now even that felt suffocating. His room was his safe haven, a place away from the commotions of his daily life. But tonight that same room felt like a prison cell despite its size. “It’s all Priya’s fault.” He immediately concluded sitting upright in bed at once as though he had struck gold. “I’m pretty sure,” Flicking the light on, Ram began postulating a viable explanation to support his thesis. “I’m pretty sure she has gone to my mom to complain about what I have done. Of course, leaving out the part about how she started it.” Sliding his feet into his slippers, Ram began marching back and forth in front of his bed, stroking his chin. “All of this must be part of her plan to make me look bad. First, it was Vikram and now she wants to turn mom against me. Well Mrs. Priya, you’ve met your match. Just wait and watch how I turn the tables on your plan.” With that thought in mind, Ram followed Priya’s footsteps, hoping to catch her off guard.
Priya walked briskly down the dim hallway of the mansion. Although she was scared of the dark, she was far too angry to care. “Who the hell does he think he is?” She mumbled to herself, marching in the direction of Krishna and Amarnath’s room. “Just because his name is Ram doesn’t make him god.” Arriving at her destination she inhaled deeply, placing her fist parallel to the door. But before she could knock, she felt a cold hand on her shoulder that yanked her to the side.
“Aap yahan?” Priya stuttered making out the face of cold handed person in the dimly lit hallway. “Sorry, I mean Papa-ji.” She quickly corrected herself, remembering Krishna’s earlier lecture of an Oscar worthy performance.
Amarnath chuckled, “Where else would I be? I mean this is my room.” He pointed to the door in front of which Priya stood.
“Oh...” She hastily stepped to the side clearing the path to his room. “I am so sorry, sir.” Priya cursed herself quietly, feeling rather dumb.
“It’s okay.” He chuckled once more apparently amused. “And just for the record, Papa-ji sounds better than sir coming from my daughter in law.” Amarnath smiled warmly, showing a different side of himself that Priya had never seen or expected after how he had reacted earlier in the day.
Finally catching up to Priya, Ram watched quietly from a corner. He was furious that Priya would complain to his father, especially since she was aware of the bitter relationship that they shared. “How could she after all that I told her about him? I trusted her...” He clenched his fist on either side of his body and continued to eavesdrop.
“Krishna told me everything.” Amarnath began, addressing the confusion in Priya’s eyes. “By the way, what brings you here at this hour? Did Ram do anything?”
Ram ears perked up, awaiting Priya’s response, he was certain that she would seize the opportunity. After all, her betrayal would serve as the perfect revenge.
“No Papa-ji, Mr. Kapoor hasn’t done anything.”Priya blurted out quickly. She hadn’t lied for Ram’s sake but for the trust with which he had shared his past with her. That bond of trust was sacred; it existed despite the fact that Ram and Priya despised each other. Due to that trust, her morals prevented her from betraying him. She would never be able to forgive herself if she was the cause of a quarrel between a father and his son.
“In fact, he has made me feel very comfortable and at home. I mean, it must be hard for him to share his room with someone let alone his life but I must say he has...” She paused before adding... “He has exceeded my expectations.” Priya fabricated an excuse in Ram’s defense, leaving him just as stunned as her ego was, sensing victory but tasting defeat.
Amarnath knew that Priya was lying but he decided that it was best not to explore the issue further. “Than what is it Priya? What brings you here?”
“Good question...” Ram thought, “Why is she here, if it wasn’t to complain?”
“Woh actually, I thought if Kush was awake, I could take him with me... I mean I don’t want him to disturb you guys. He usually wakes up cranky and hungry around 3am. ” Priya explained nervously, hoping she didn’t sound too needy. The last thing she wanted to do was impose on Kush’s right to be with his grandparents. But she missed Kush; there wasn’t a single night since he had been in her life that she had spent without him. And tonight she needed him the most being in an unfamiliar place in the company of an egotistic maniac.“Okay beta, let's check if he’s still sleeping...”
Ram whistled his favourite tune, weaving his fingers through his red tie, which matched his mood perfectly. “Priya, hurry up,” He hollered, as he completed the final tuck of his tie adjusting the Windsor knot snuggly against his neck. “Coming baba,” She yelled back at him, he could hear the slight hiss as she kissed her teeth irritated that he was rushing her. Ram chuckled to himself, “God she’s so cute.”
Squirting a dime of gel in his palm Ram rubbed his hands together before combing his fingers through his partly dry hair. Storming out of the bathroom, Priya walked to the dresser, finishing the last twist of her French braid, she rested her well woven hair on her right shoulder. Strumming her fingers through her collection of ear-rings, Priya finally decided to go with the diamond studs. Slipping on a few gold bangles, she decorated her bare wrists. The sight of Ram tilting his head from side to side in the mirror in order to ensure his hair was uniformly styled brought a blushing smile to her face. Crossing her arms, she watched him, amused by his level of focus. “So much for multitasking,” She grinned shyly, recalling the steamy shower as she turned to leave. He caught hold of her arm suddenly, his hand slightly cold from being drenched in the wet strands of his hair. “Mrs. Kapoor, am I amusing to you?” He tugged her towards him, her palms resting on his chest as he snaked his arms around her waist. She tugged her bottom lip shyly averting his alluring gaze. Tilting her chin up, he smiled as he placed a soft, innocent kiss on her forehead. “Darling, shall we go?” Ram stepped back slightly, placing his left hand forward, an invitation, which she was more than willing to accept. Resting her hand in his, their fingers snuggly entwined and with the exchange of peaceful smiles, Ram and Priya began walking towards the open bedroom doors.
Ram stood on the terrace with his arms crossed, drowning in thoughts that scared him. Normally his mind was in charge but for the first time in his life, it seemed to have reached an impasse with his heart and for that reason he couldn’t rely on either for an answer. The question that kept resurfacing in his conscience was, “Why did Priya lie in my defense?” It was clear to any overseer, Priya had the upper hand. Ram had made a mockery of her dignity. Heck he hadn’t even spoken a sentence to her without shouting and projecting hate. Moreover, the very basis of his plan started with him scamming her signature. And when she was handed a golden opportunity to defame him, she decided instead to sing his false praises. Suddenly the numbing tingle in his chest returned. It felt like hot lava spreading on the icy surface of his heart. This time the guilt was apparently greater, even his ego failed to pitch a snappy retort. Assuming that Priya was predictable was Ram’s first mistake; her one curveball struck his judgement out, changing his otherwise fixed perspective on life. Although he was undecided as to whether or not he could trust her, one thing was certain, he was definitely wrong about her as person.
“Ram,” sighing deeply, he thought to himself “Yeh tune sahi nahi kiya. Priya didn’t do anything and you...” Realizing the cause of his sudden insomnia, Ram finally acknowledged his guilt. “Khair... What’s done is done... Now how do I make this right?” Ram stroked his chin and contemplated, “Maybe I should apologize?” Entertaining the idea briefly in his mind, Ram couldn’t help but recall his most recent request for forgiveness. The kiss and the taste of her lips still fresh in his memory. “No Ram, apologizing is too risky...” Ruling out the possibility of an apology, Ram searched the depths of his hazy mind hoping to find an optimal option.
“But then how do I say that I’m sorry without actually saying the words, I’m sorry?”