After Armaan and the gang left her place, Nikki started to leave for Sanjeevani. She called up Sanjeevani and told the receptionist to inform Dr. Keerti she would be coming in late. The receptionist told her since a lot of people had problem reaching home the previous night, Dr. Keerti said it was fine if the staff came in a little late.
When she reached the hospital, she noticed Abhi wasn't in the hospital. She enquired with the receptionist about his whereabouts and was told that he has gone to check the site, that was alloted to them for the New Sanjeevan Project. He would be back only late in the evening.
A dejected Nikki carried on with her duties throughout the day, but, still kept a hopeful watch for Abhi. She was already upset that Abhi left early in the morning without even meeting her. Now he isn’t even around! Just, as she was about to finish for the day, her cellphone beeped a message from him.
"Need to talk to you. I am in a meeting, will try to be there by 7pm, can you wait for me?"
Happy to see his message Nikki replied with a "Yes.”
Her phone rang Thinking it was Abhi, she answered excitedly.
"See, not only we, even the Gods are with you!” It was Adi in a teasing tone. “I heard you both had a romantic date in the rain?" Nikki smiles.
“Oh Yes, It was very romantic indeed !" she replied, sadness and despondency mingled in her voice "with everyone around !" She heard Adi's loud laugh.
"Yeah Abs told me briefly about it. He was in a hurry"
“He left in the morning without even meeting me!" she rued
"That's one complex man you've fallen in love with!" Adi teased. He tone was then soft and comforting as he said, "Don't worry, he'll definitely meet you," After assuring her, he disconnected the call.
Nikki was waiting impatiently for Abhi in the hospital. At 8pm she got another text from him saying he was still unable to leave the meeting and didn't think he would be free any sooner. So, she should carry leave for home, they would talk tomorrow. Nikki was even more upset. She left for home with a heavy heart.
Next morning, as Nikki was getting ready to leave for Sanjeevani, her phone rang. It was Abhi asking if she was ready to leave for Sanjeevani and when Nikki told him she was, he said he would pick her up as he was on his way to her place. Nikki agreed. Ten minutes, she heard the door bell and taking him in, asked him if he wanted to have anything. He politely declined the offer.
"I wanted to apologise to you for Adi's outburst to Uncle regarding us. He shouldn't have dragged you into this"
Nikki kept mum and sat down on the arm-rest of a chair. She needed to keep her nerves calm.
"Uncle is very happy about us." Abhi continued. "He is so happy that he has even extended his trip by a week. I did not know about it but, in his excitement, he has asked Maya Aunty to come down. Now she is arriving this afternoon."
“Oh!” Nikki acknowledged, with surprise on his face.
Abhi shook his head in confirmation.
"I really don't know how to say it to you but they are all so excited about us that I am unable to tell them the truth" there was hesitancy and nervousness in his voice
"what exactly is the truth Abhi? You don't love me ?" Nikki was tempted to ask him. Their eyes meet. Abhi could see her lips part as if she wanted to say something. His brows furrowed. .
"Did you say something?" He asked and Nikki shook her head in the negative.
'You see Uncle , Aunty, Adi-Sheetal, have always been there for me in both my good and bad times." Abhi explained. There was a faraway look on his face.
"They have been my strength and gone through a lot of pain." He wanted to add "because of me," but, refrained from doing so.
"Now that I see how happy this news has made them, I just don't have the heart to tell them otherwise. They would be heartbroken" there was pleading in his voice. He glanced at her and then tearing his gaze away quickly. He then shut his eyes tightly as if gathering all the strength he could. Never the one to speak much of himself, Nikki knew this was extremely difficult for him. He then opened his eyes and looked at Nikki once again. She could see the uneasiness in his them.
"This is why I ask , will you be able to keep up the pretence of us being a couple, for a few days, till they are here?"
Nikki gave him a wry look.
"Dr. Abhimanyu Modi ! You never like pretence and playing games do you?" she challenged. Feeling guilty Abhi looked shame-faced at her.
"Don't worry ! I do understand how difficult it is for you to even suggest it,” She paused briefly before saying further. “If it was only for you, I wouldn't have even considered it. However, now I have grown very fond of Adi, Sheetal and Dr. Puri. They are wonderful people and have given me so much of warmth. I would not not like to see them in pain."
There was partial relief and part gratitude on Abhi's face.
"For someone like me who lives in this big cold world, its rare to get such warmth and love" Her eyes were brimming with tears. Abhi felt his own eyes beginning to moisten as he empathised with her.
"I'll do it for their sake." She said, struggling to keep her tears from flowing. Abhi thanked her softly. For the longest moment, they stared at each other, their eyes glistening with tears. A little later Abhi took a deep breath and asked "Shall we go?" Nikki nodded her head.
Sitting in the car,on their way to Sanjeevani, Nikki braced herself and asked Abhi about Simi. "Do I need to know about your relationship with Simi or not?"
She saw him stiffen and tighten his hand on the steering wheel. Eyes glued on the road ahead, he said, "Simi and I were together once but it didn't work out and I really don't want to go into details about that right now.”
He then darted a brief glance at her. “Sometimes we have no choice but keep meeting people we don't want to keep in touch with. I can't help Simi being around. All that matters now is there is nothing between us and definitely nothing from my side."
The uncomfortabel silence glared in the car and continued till they reached Sanjeevani.
In the hospital, they stopped at the reception. While Nikki was signing the Roster, Abhi asked for a file from the receptionist.
A lady, carrying a little boy in her arms, greeted them. The one year old boy Aarav was Nikki's patient. With a broad smile, she took Aarav from his mother and started playing and cooing with him. Abhi watched them as he took the file from the receptionist. A tiny smile erupted on his face.
"Dr. Nikita, he is fine now." the mother told her. "Thanks for signing the discharge papers last evening. Now we can leave early." She darted a searching glance around her and realised she left her bag in her room. She asked Nikki if she would hold Aarav for few minutes while she would go get her bag. "No Problem," Nikki told her as she continued to play with Aarav.
"So you going today? will you miss me?" she asked him playfully after his mother left.
Distracted by them, Abhi glanced up from his file. His heart was melting as he watched her with the kid. Aarav was suddenly attracted by the tattoo under the sleeve of Abhi's shirt. He tried to reach for it. Seeing him doing that, an amused Abhi held his little finger and playfully shook it.
A lady standing near the reception was observing them playing with the kid. "You both make a lovely pair. That’s a sweet little kid you have there."
Abhi and Nikki were stunned. They flustered in embarrassment. Abhi then gave a hard stare at Nikki and walked away as if he was irked by the remark. Nikki watched him with sad eyes while the lady looked baffled at the two ofthem.
Sometime towards the evening, Abhi left his cabin in search of Nikki. Finding her alone in the locker room he told her that Aunty would like to meet her. He asked her if she is okay to have dinner out with the family tonight. Nikki agreed. Abhi told her he'll pick her up at 8 pm.
Nikki managed to leave Sanjeevani early. At home she was tearing her hair wondering what to wear.
"Don't get nervous Nikki. Its not like you are meeting your in-laws" she soothed her frazzled nerves. She finally settled for a simple off shoulder black dress from her wardrobe and went for a shower. Once she was fully dressed, she gave herself a good look in the mirror. The off shoulder knee length straight fit dress accessorised by small diamond studs in the ears, a silver cuff bracelet and black & silver stilettos made her look gorgeous. Yet Nikki was feeling uneasy, wondering if something was missing or had she overdone it! She twirled and swirled in front of the mirror till the doorbell rang.
When Nikki opened the door the her heart almost popped out from her chest. at sight of Abhi standing in looking so hot in a full sleeved short black shirt, unbuttoned to the point where it revealed the black pendant and dark blue jeans.
They gulped hard as they stared at each other. The flicker of intense passion in his eyes, brought a deep colour on Nikki's face.
"Is something wrong ? am I not okay?" she asked, trying to divert his attention and succeed as he snapped out of his ogling.
"NO !" he muttered.
"No?" Nikki was taken aback.
" Oh, Oh, I meant.......I meant nothing is wrong,” He stuttered “ You are perfect ! In fact you are looking absolutely stunning!"
Nikki blushed. There was a brief awkward silence, till Abhi hurriedly asked "Shall we go ?"
Nikki picked up her silver clutch and walked towards the car. She saw Abhi has held the door open for her, his eyes transfixd on her. Flashing a shy smile at him, she sat in the car.
Abhi shut the car door and exhaled deeply. He gave himself a mental shake as he strode across to the driver's side. ‘Concentrate, don't get diverted. he told himself.'
Once he was seated, he willed himself not to look at her, but, as if in a trance, he turned to look at her, immediately regretting it as his heart pumped violently threatening to come out of his chest. "Shut up!" he h bellowed at his treachorous heart. He never realised he was loud.
"Excuse me?" Nikki was taken aback.
"What ?" he asked, in perplexment.
"You were saying something, I didn't hear properly!"
"Oh no, no, its nothing" Unable to look her into the eye, he quickly belted himself and started the car.
"How is Adi's mom ? is she sweet like them ?" Nikki asked lightly trying to slacken the heated tension in the car."
"Oh, she is a warm and lovely person. You'll love her!" he told her with a tender smile. She could see the fondness for the lady in his eyes.
Seeing Nikki fidgeting with her purse, he said softly, "Nikki you don't have to prove anything. You just be yourself. And you are wonderful the way you are!"
They were both stunned with his sudden blurting. Abhi had turned red with embarassment and turned his gaze to the road.
‘What is happening to him ? He doesn't know what he was saying and what he was doing? "Focus Abhimanyu, don't get diverted I said !" he reprimanded himself. This was only the start. If he was in this state now, he was sure to be a wreck by the end of the evening! He had to control his emotions!
"Second compliment from Dr. Abhimanyu Modi ! Looks like he isn't feeling well today !" Nikki was thinking, her heart beating in excitement. They exchanged a tiny awkward glance and nervous smile before turning to the road ahead again.
The Puris were already waiting when they reached the table. Adi and Sr. Puri rose from their chairs to greet them. Nikki then saw a woman with short, salt-peppered hair coming towards them.
Maya Puri was one sophisticated chic looking woman who was dressed in a complete black, black low necklined top over black trousers. A simple string of pearls was around her neck. With a broad and warm tender smile, she outstretched her arms wide to Abhi. "There you are my son ! I am seeing you after ages!" she exclaimed.
Abhi embraced her tightly and she patted his back fondly, saying "how much I missed you!" She then pulled back and scanned him from head to toe.
"I doesn't look like you missed me" she said poutily.
Abhi pulled her into his arms and clasped her tightly. "You don't know how much I missed you!" There was emotion in his voice. Maya smiled. Looking over Abhi's shoulder she saw Nikki.
"And you are Nikita!" she stated flashing a tender smile at her. Nikki nodded her head. Abhi pulled away from here and turned to look at her.
"Yes this is Nikki,” he confirmed “ and Nikki this is Maya Aunty".
Maya enveloped Nikki in a warm embrace too. Then pulling away, her eyes scanned Nikki from head to toe as she did to Abhi.
"My My you are really very pretty" she declared
Nikki smiled "Thank you, but look at you! You could give any young model a run for their money!" Maya chuckled and so did the rest.
"I have heard so much about you from everyone that I had to cross the oceans to come and see you,” she told Nikki, “after all its regarding my Abhi"
She glanced lovingly at him and he returned her a fond smile. "but yes, I am upset that I was not the first one to know about you.”
She then noticed anxiety flit on her face. “Oh Don't worry I am not blaming you." She smiled and turning to Abhi, tweaked his ears. "He is the one to be punished for it" Nikki smiled.
"I guess some people have problems admitting their feelings even to themselves!" she replied, looking defiantly at Abhi who was clearly peeved by her remark. The others were enjoying the exchanged between the three.
"Hear! Hear!" a delighted Maya cheered slapping him on the back. "Abhi puttar you've got the right match, I love her spunk." She teased darting an approving glance at her.
Sr. Puri then embraced Nikki and kissed her on the forehead.
"You are looking beautiful," he told her warmly. Nikki shyly mumbled her thanks. She then embraced Sheetal who also complimented her looks.
"Going for the kill Girl?" Adi whispered in her ear as they embraced. "Poor Abs, he is a sure goner today!" He pulled back and seeing his wicked grin, Nikki blushed.
It was then that Simi and her father entered. There wasa another exchange of hugs and greeting.
When Simi came to Nikki, she gave her a sweet smile which surprised Nikki. "Nikita, I am sorry, we didn't get a chance to talk after Adi told us about you and Abhi. I am so glad for you guys!" She said hugging her and air kissed her. Sheetal, Adi and Abhi exchange surprised looks, but Nikki felt a certain coldness in her hug.
Simi then went to Abhi and said. "I am really glad for you Abhi. At last you found someone who loves you"
"Yeah someone who Abs loves," Adi interjected.
"Yes of course” Simi acknowledged with a faint smile and then embracing Abhi she planted a kiss on his cheek. Abhi and Nikki looked suspiciously at her.
"Can we start the dinner?" Maya asked and nodding their heads, they took their seats. Nikki was seated between Adi and Abhi, while Sheetal and Simi were seated on the other side of them.
The dinner was a pleasant affair as everyone were in a good mood. Everytime some unknown name or event came up in the discussions, Abhi would lean over to Nikki and explain it to her. Everytime he would do that her heart would start racing and her insides would tingle excitedly. And everytime Simi would lean closer to Abhi and try to monopolise his attention, a twinge of jealousy would stab into her, but, she tried her best not to show it.
"Nice to see we are all together after such a long time!" Sr. Puri said with a satisfied smile. "Lets go for a picnic, somewhere out of the city.”
"Yes, lets do that!" Adi ageeed. "But since Sheetal won't be able to do a very long journey, lets go somewhere closer"
"The closest we can do is Lonavla which is approximately a hour and half drive" Abhi said.
So it was decided that they would go to Lonavla on Saturday and be back by Sunday afternoon. Sr. Puri also asked Abhi about the party he was to arrange.
"Oh I forgot about it!" Abhi slapped his head.
He turned to Nikki. "Remind me tomorrow to tell Armaan to organise it." Nikki stared dumbfoundedly at him. "Abhi taking help from Armaan!"
"Good thing Raj, you and Simi decided to stay back for another week. Now, you can attend the party too" Senior Puri told his friend.
The group were ready to leave and rose from their seats. Adi had been watching Abhi and Nikki intently. He saw how Abhi was unable to keep his eyes away from Nikki right through the dinner making her shy and flustered.
"Time for some fun my friend!" he mentally declared, mischief bubbling inside him.
Going near Abhi, he put his arm around his shoulder. They were the last in the group walking out. A couple of steps ahead of them, Sheetal and Nikki were giggling, having just shared a joke.
"Abs I know you are tired. I can drop Nikki home if you want." He said aloud. Everyone turned around and looked at him in puzzlement. Abhi was bewildered and to thrust his elbow hard into Adi's stomach.
"Ouch!" Adi grimaced in pain.
'You ..........! if it weren't for Sheetal and you being a father, I would have throttled you," Abhi hissed under his breath.
Adi smiled. "Yaar I am only helping you"
"Yeah its all because of your help, this is happening. Thank you very much. I don't need any more help from you.” Abhi retorted hotly.
He then noticed everyone was staring at the two of them, confusion on their faces. He gave them an assuring smile.
"Its okay Adi, you take care of your wife, she needs you. I'll drop Nikki," he told him. Being nearer to them, Sheetal and Nikki noticed Adi's mischievous gleam and knew he was teasing Abhi. They exchanged knowing looks with each other and shaking their heads they followed the others out.
"Soch lo, today the stars are not right!" Adi teased Abhi, his tone was low.
"If you don't shut up, your stars will definitely not be right ever !" Abhi grated wryly.
Adi chuckled. "Teek hai don't blame me later, if anything happens" he shrugged his shoulders. Giving him a wry look, Abhi thumped him hard on his back. When their reached the lobby, Sr. Puri turned and looked at them.
"Is everything okay boys?" They shook their heads in confirmation and innnocent smiles on their faces.
On their way home, Abhi asked Nikki if she was fine with the dinner. Nikki smiled and told him she did have a great time.
“I noticed you did not eat well,” he said. You were picking on the food. Didn't you like it?”
"Actually, I was a bit nervous,” Nikki replies. “ so I couldn't eat."
By the time they reached Nikki's place it started raining. When Abhi stopped the car, they looked at each other and smiled. They realised it was time to part and were feeling unhappy about it. Tension was grinding in the car as they struggled to find the right words to say.
“Thanks” they finally muttered in unison and then exchanged an awkward smile.
Mumbling a bye, Nikki then turned to open the car door.
“Nikki!” she heard Abhi call hurriedly. She quickly swirled and eyed him in anticipation.
"Since you did not eat well, are you feeling hungry ? We could get you something to eat !" he said hesitantly.
"Oh No, I am fine. Thank you."
"Oh Ok", He shrugged trying his best to hide his disappointment. Nikki thought for a moment and said, “Actually I wouldn't mind a nice chocolate ice-cream with lots of chocolate sauce on it," She smacked her lips bringing a grin on Abhi's face.
"Ok Lets go find one for you."
The rain was coming down a bit heavy. They managed to find an ice-cream parlour. The service boy came to their window and gives Abhi the menu list. He handed it to Nikki and asked her to choose.
Nikki chose a double scoop of chooclate fudge ice-cream on a cone topped with chocolate sauce. Abhi smiled.
“Why are you smiling?” she asked.
"No. nothing!" He shook his head, stiffling his amusement and ordere her ice-cream.
"Aren't you going to eat ?" she asked surprise he didn't order anything for himself.
" Didn't you order two scoops? I thought one was for me !" he teased.
"No way!” Nikki looked horrified at him. “You better order your own!"
Looking at her expression, Abhi threw his head back and gave a short laugh "Its okay, I am not too fond of ice-cream!"
She stared at him as if he committed sacrilege. He laughed again.
Her ice-cream arrived and Abhi paid the boy. He requested Abhi to move his car ahead to the corner. As Nikki started eating her ice-cream. Abhi drove the car a little ahead and parked it on the side of the road under a tree.
"Ummmmmm! This is so delicious," she exclaimed. "Heaven!" She took another lick. “Ummm....An ice-cream in this weather and that too such yummy one ! Absolutely Divine!"
Wiping her face with a tissue lying in a box in the dashboard, she looked at Abhi and extending the cone towards him, said "You can try a bite." Even before he could react, she pulled it back to her lips and took another bite. Abhi grinned.
" No, you have it!" he mumbled wryly. He was enjoying her child-like exuberance on eating an ice-cream. When she was done with the last bit, she thanked him.
Noticing a bit of chocolate sauce on her nose, he indicated it to her with his eyes. Nikki touched her nose but missed the spot. “Where?” she mouthed.
He leaned closer to her and with his thumb wiped it away. Her senses were stirred and she looked shyly at him. Desire smouldered in his eyes as he pored deep into hers. He lifted his thumb and ran it on her cheek. Nikki closed her eyes and dreamily moved her face in rhythmn to his sensuous caress. His thumb then slowly moved seductively on her lips making them throb and burn. Her chest was heaving heavily from the pounding that was going inside her. He cupped her face with both his palms and after a long look at her, lowered his mouth and captured her lips. Passion bursting into them they exchanged kiss for kiss as their mouths crushingly fused together. Abhi's lips then slowly moved away from her lips to the edge of her mouth. Nikki’s insides were churning with excitement. Rapturously, she wrapped her arms tightly around his neck while he move his lips down to her neck, planting soft kisses on it, his hands gently caressing her back. The heat from his warm hands on the bareness of Nikki's back, burnt into her skin sending her body on fire. .
"God you are so beautiful,” he drawled “ you drive me crazy " '
His words sent a exciting chill down Nikki's spine. She regained her senses.
“Abhi" she whispered shyly.
"Hmmmm" he mumbled, his lips still passionately burning on her neck
Nikki nudged him gently. "Abhi!"
He loosened his hold and released her. He exhaled deeply and glanced at her. Flushed with shyness, she lowered her eyes. He straightened himself and sitting upright in his seat, he squeezed his eyes tightly. He then opened them and running his fingers through his hair , be blew a soft "phew".
"Are you okay?" he asked hesitantly, not looking at her.
When she mumbled a yes, he started the car. They drove in absolute silence. The only sound that was loud and clear was the sound of the lashing rain. When they reached Nikki's place, Abhi drove up to the porch so that Nikki did not get wet. After opening the door, she gave him one last look and entered her house. Abhi then drove away and after going a little further from Nikki’s place, he parked the car on the side.
"Great Going Abhimanyu !” he reprimanded himself. “ Just could not control yourself could you! How do you manage to fall so weak when it comes to her !" Knowing he was not going to get any answers, he shook his head and started driving again.