The next few days went off in a flurry of activities. Abhi got busy with Sanjeevani whilst Nikki had a houseful of visitors. Her aunts and cousins kept visiting them because of her mother. They would drag a reluctant Nikki for lunches and shopping.
First with unsuccessful softness and then with firmness, Abhi got Nikki to reduce her barbs and taunts towards her mother.
The Kapoors threw a lavish dinner for family and friends on Sunday to kick start the week long pre-wedding ceremonies. The wedding was scheduled to be held on the following Saturday.
It was at the cocktail party Nikki, came face to face with Akash Khurana, a face she never wanted to see again.
"Nikki Darling, you remember Akash don't you?"
"No I don't," Nikki replies, her voice filled with venom. "I only remember people who are significant."
Kavita is aghast and she looks around her hoping her daughter's barb has not been heard by the guests.
"Looks like you are still upset with me Nikki," Akash tells her humbly.
"Me?" she twitches her nose in disgust. "I only get upset with people who matter to me. The rest I don't care."
"Nikki, will you stop being rude " her mother chides softly.
"Nikki, I am sorry for what I did that day. It was really immature of me and I always regretted it. People do make mistakes in their life. Please forgive me."
He takes a good look at her. She was looking so hot, dressed in a halter necked black dress, her face glowing with happiness.
"I see you are married and well settled in life," Akash continues, oblivious to the fact that Nikki's attention is diverted towards her husband. "I only want your forgiveness. Please forgive me."
Nikki kept staring at Abhi who was standing across the room, surrounded by Simran and her friends. Whatever they were telling him, it brought embarrassment and colour on his face. Nikki walks towards him with amusement on her face, leaving a baffled Akash and Kavita staring at each other.
"Tell us Jeeju, what is the secret of such a fab body," she hears Simran coaxing Abhi as she neared them.
"Yes, tell us, tell us." Her friends chorus.
"Well, he exercises well by carrying his pregnant wife from one place to another," Nikki butts in with a tone as sugary sweet.
Going towards an amused Abhi and putting her hand possessively around his arm, she tells the girls "It is a wonderful exercise for him."
Then looking up at his face she teases, "Isn't it Hubby Darling?" Her lips contorts into a twisted smile.
"Absolutely Divine!" he replies dreamily, bringing his face very close to hers, a seductive smile playing on his lips.
"Oooooooooooohhhhhhhhhh" chorus the enchanted girls, as they watch the two lost into each other.
His mesmerized gaze and giggly ooh la las from the smitten girls, makes Nikki shy. She tells Abhi. "I am thirsty. Can we go get something to drink?"
Abhi nods with a smile.
"Bye Girls," he waves at them. "Catch you all later."
"Don't go," they plead.
"I am sorry," he apologises, blinking his eyes at them. Then taking Nikki's hand in his, he says "its orders from my headquarters." He winks at Nikki who smiles at him.
As they walks towards the bar, indicating his eyes, towards Akash, whose back was facing them, Abhi asksNikki.
"Who is he?"
"Shut up!" she says indignantly.
Reaching the bar he asks for a juice for Nikki. He then whispers into her ears.
"I have to thank you, dear wife, for rescuing me, or else, I would have been stripped completely, put on a pedestal and made to display every inch and cut of my muscles."
"Shut up Abhi," says Nikki as she bursts into uncontrollable laughter. Trying to stop herself, she keeps resting her head on Abhi's upper arm, but is unsuccessful in controlling her laugh.
"Seriously," Abhi confirms in between chuckles, as he watches her , trying hard to control herself. Their faces were filled with mirth.
"Oh God, here she comes again," he mutters, attempting to hide his face.
"Nikki please save me!" he pleads, holding firmly on to her arm. Nikki turns to look at Simran coming towards them. She bites her lower lip in an attempt to prevent her laughter from erupting.
"Nikki Di, Mama and Kavita Maasi are looking out for you," she tells Nikki sweetly. "Don't worry about Jeeju, I'll take care of him."
Nikki can hear Abhi's soft groans behind her. With a finger, he keeps gently nudging her back. Stiffling her amusement at his nervousness, she smiles at Simran.
"Sweety can you take me to where they are," she tells Simran sweetly.
"Okay fine, Di." Simran agrees. Then looking at Abhi she says, "Bye Jeeju, I'll be back soon." She begins to walk away.
"Nikki, please, please come back soon. I need your protection." Abhi pleads.
Nikki walks off with a laugh.
Finding Abhi at the bar, a partly drunk Jas goes up to him. As they begin to chat, Akash comes there and asks for a drink.
Jas introduces them.
"Akash meet Abhimanyu my son in law and Abhimanyu, this is Akash. His mother Sheetal is a very close friend of Kavita and Amrita.
As they shake hands, Abhi thinks, he has met Akash somewhere before. The face seemed very familiar, but, he was unable to recollect where. He stares at Akash who was almost the same height as him, fair skinned, boyish face. His upper lip had a miniscule scar.
Jas pats Abhi on the back, saying "Hey, Dr. Abhimanyu Modi, you promised to take me to the dhabas, when are you going to take me? tell, tell."
"I will Jas, first let us be free from this wedding." He continues to stare at Akash.
Hearing the name Abhimanyu Modi, Akash freezes. He looks anxiously at Abhi.
"Akash, have we met before? I don't know why, but your face seems very familiar," Abhi tells him.
Touching his scar, Akash nervously says, "I don't know. I don't think so. Excuse me, I have someone to catch up with"
Before Abhi can say anything further, he hurriedly walks away.
Abhi is baffled. "Why does this guy seem so familiar?" he wonders.
Sometime later, Nikki was in the lawn, enjoying the fresh breeze that was playing against her face. 'Its so pleasant here. Inside was so stuffy," she thinks.
"I should have told Abhi,' she mutters to herself, but, then she had came out from the other entrance. 'I'll go in, in few minutes or he'll worry' she decides.
A small rumbling in her stomach makes her put her hand over it. Caressing it tenderly she smiles. On and off, the baby has started showing signs of its presence. Even though there are no major kicks, since it is too early for it, there is that occasional flutter and flitting telling of the baby's movements.
She is reminded of the various times she woke up in the nights with either pain in the back, cramps in the leg or even tossing and turning because of discomfort in her sleeping position.
No matter what part of the night, Abhi would be quick to wake up and patiently massage the area of distress, till she fell back to sleep. He turned out to be a good support for her.
He has spoilt them so much now, that it has become difficult for her and the baby to sleep, without his protective arm over them.
"Isn't it baby?" she asks, with a smile on her face.
"Abhi," Nikki lovingly, whispers his name.
The love and tenderness he showers on her, has pushed that ugly night at the Park Hotel far away from her mind. Yet, that night did happen. It wasn't her imagination. She had seen it with her own eyes. Day by day, his increasing love, was slowly getting her convinced that there seems to be something more to what she saw. What could it be?
Whatever it is, It is a thorn that keeps pricking into this lovely phase of theirs.
Its high time, she had that talk with Abhi and cleared things up. She has to be brave and face whatever is the truth.
Abhi has asked her to rejoin Sanjeevani, after the wedding and atleast, handle the administrative side, till her pregnancy induced phobia on seeing blood during surgeries, subsides.
Once this wedding is over, her mother will surely leave soon. Right now there is too much of activities and people around, for them to talk peacefully. It's a matter of a week. They waited for so long. Now, they can surely wait for another week or two. Then, they can patiently and calmly get a few things cleared up and decide on their future.
Abhi is all over the hall, searching for Nikki. He bumps into Simran and asks her where Nikki was.
"Oh Jeeju, she was feeling stuffy inside. So she said she'll go out for few minutes to catch some fresh air."
"Thanks" Abhi smiles at her.
"Abhi, come aside, I need to tell you something," Rohit pats him on the back. As they move to a side, the whole room is plunged in darkness.
"Oh No, Nikki!" Abhi begins to worry. "She is afraid of the dark, I need to go out and find her," he tells Rohit.
"Abhi don't panic, there is provision of a generator. It will be switched on in few minutes," Rohit calls out, but Abhi has already left.
Seeing darkness all over, Nikki's heart begins to pound nervously.
'Oh God,' she begins to panic "What do I do now,"
Her breathing becomes heavy, her body starts shivering and her hands have gone numb.
She can hear her name being called out from afar. 'Abhi,' she smiles in relief.
As she senses him coming near her, Nikki closes the distance and buries her head in his chest. His arms go around her.
"Thank God, you came Abhi. I was so frightened."
A sudden bout of cold creeps goes down her spine. This wasn't her Abhi's body nor smell.
As she looks up, the lights flicker on. She shudders in fear as she finds herself looking into the evil gleaming eyes of Akash.
Her stomach begins to revolt in panic. She then notices a movement, some distance away from them.
To her horror, she finds Abhi watching them, his eyes frozen in stunned silence.
to be continued