"You've both been fighting! Haven't you?" Nikki turned hearing Muskaan's voice. After completing their internship, only Muskaan, from their intern gang, stayed back at Sanjeevani. Armaan and Riddhima got married and moved to London. Anjali also moved to London and Atul to Sanjeevani Delhi.
"Its true isn't it?" Muskaan broke through her thoughts.
"He's gone mad!" she replied indignation on her face. "He says I should stay away from Kunal. Can you believe it? On one hand he says he trusts me while on the other, he doesn't want Kunal anywhere near me."
"Hasn't he returned from Bangalore as yet?"
Nikki shook her head. "I can't believe he can ditch me on this day. He knows how important this party is for me!" There was sadness in her eyes.
"If he doesn't come for the party, it will only strengthen the speculation and rumours."
"Rumours? What Rumours?" Nikki looked disbelievingly at her friend who was hesitating to look her in the eye.
"Rumours about your closeness to Dr. Kunal."
"Muskaan, do I have to explain to you too that he is only my intern and that our families have been friends for many years! Even though he is a couple of years younger to me, we've grown up together and that is why we have a closer rapport."
"You don't have to explain anything to me Nikki. I can understand because I'm your friend. But then the staff of the hospital don't understand such things. Besides, the tension between you and Abhimanyu is so visible these days. Today itself, I heard a few nurses saying that your year old marriage is on the rocks and you're friendship with Kunal is the reason for it!"
"But that's not at all true!" Nikki gasped. "Our marriage is not on the rocks. We do have a few minor issues which all marriages do and which can be taken care of, as we both love each other like crazy!"
"I know, but, where is he? Shouldn't he be here for this party since it was your suggestion for Sanjeevani to have an annual party for its staff. As Head of Sanjeevani and your husband, his presence is important to show his support for you and that everything is fine with your marriage. Did he say what time he was coming?"
"He was scheduled to come home at 5pm today, but, hasn't arrived yet. He isn't even answering his phone. I can't believe he'd ditch me today!"
An upset and flustered Abhimanyu leaned back into the cushioned chair in his wife's cabin and closed his eyes. The offending cards, a declaration of love between his wife and her childhood friend, spread smugly on his desk.
This can't be true ! Nikki cannot have feelings for someone like Kunal. Granted she is a bit over friendly and over enthusiastic, but, definitely not the kind to have an affair. Besides, he knew in his heart, she loved him. He could see it in her beautiful eyes, he could feel it in her fervent response everytime he touched her, but then, why has she treasured these cards so preciously instead of thrashing them! And why has she continued her friendship with Kunal, instead of slapping him for harbouring such feelings for her! Why doesn't she stay away from him, She even went to the extent of fighting with him for Kunal, the day before he left for Bangalore!"
Anger exploded into him as he recalled their fight.
"Nikki, all I'm suggesting is, you maintain a professional relationship with Kunal in the hospital. You are a senior doctor now and he is your intern. Keep it at a professional level. Avoid over friendliness."
"Abhi, I am friendly to all my interns. I believe it makes them comfortable having an understanding senior than a strict one. Yes, Kunal is my childhood friend and I am a notch friendlier to him than the others, but, that's about it. It doesn't mean I am having an affair with him! Are you suspecting my character?"
"For God's sake Nikki, stop over reacting! Your over friendliness with him, isn't good for your reputation in the hospital."
"Don't take the excuse of the hospital Abhi! Why don't you just admit, you are jealous and you don't like my friendship with Kunal?"
"Yes, I admit I don't like your friendship with Kunal and I am jealous. That's not because I don't trust you, its just that I don't like any over-friendly men near you. My hand itches to punch them in the face. But, I am not asking you to stop your friendship. I can live with it as long as I know you are mine. Just keep that extra touching friendship away from the hospital!
"You are such a chauvinist pig!" she retorted in annoyance. "You just want to have things your way" she accused.
"Sorry I can't help it!" he shrugged nonchalantly.
"Just because we are married it doesn't mean you can dictate my life, Abhi," she snapped, peeved with his callousness. "I'm not going to spoil my relationship with my close male friends just because you say so!"
"Fine, if you'd rather spoil our relationship. Have it your way!" he told her and walked into the guest room where he spent a restless night, before catching the flight the next morning for Bangalore.
The whole of the next day was a busy one and whilst in a meeting in the evening, he saw her call, but, but was unable to take it. The moment he got free, he called back, but found her cell unreachable. He then called home and was told she called to say she would be coming late as she was having dinner with Kunal.
Jealousy roared through him as his eyes fell on the cards once again. He had chanced upon them when he came in an hour back to the hospital.
The moment he landed, he saw a few missed calls on his cell and had to come to Sanjeevani for an emergency. After checking on his patient in the ICU, he was on his way to his office when he saw Ayesha, the intern standing outside Nikki's cabin.
"You want something?" he asked from behind and saw her start. "I'm sorry," he muttered. "What are you doing here? Its Saturday and I thought most of the staff are home by this time, getting ready for the annual party this evening."
"Er......Dr. Modi, I had left a file for Dr. Nikita to sign. But, since she isn't around, I was wondering if I could check her table for it."
"Fine, I'll come in with you and let her know about it."
While Abhi stood near Nikki's chair, Ayesha began to check the table for the file, but, wasn't able to find it.
"Dr. Modi, can I check the drawer for the file?"
'I'll do it!" he said opening the drawer. On top lay a big brown envelop with Love from Kunal scribbled on it. Abhi picked up the envelop and peeking through it, saw a bunch of cards inside them.
"Er..........Dr. Modi," Ayesha slapped her forehead. "I just remembered Dr. Nikita said she would pass the file to Dr. Keerti. It must be with Dr. Keerti. I'll check with her."
Abhi was too dazed to reply. Ayesha stared at him in puzzlement and quietly left the room.
He pulled out the cards. There were six printed romantic cards hand addressed Nikki my love, signed yours forever, Kunal.
Abhi slumped down into the chair.
He read through the printed words of each card. One well versed card described how from being "Just friends" they graduated into "being in love" Every word, every line of every card speared painfully into him. The worst of it all was a tiny card which was velvety red and blank on the top cover and inside scribbled in rich red inked pen Nikki my love followed by the handwritten words "Everytime you stand in front of me, I can only gape speechless at you. Tonight I hope to find courage to voice the feelings which these cards have been communicatiing to you! Yours forever, Kunal."
Abhi took a deep breath and rose angrily from his chair"Its time to confront his wife!"
Every person she came across at the party seemed to have only two questions to field at her.
"Dr. Nikita, Is everything alright?"
"Isn't Dr. Modi going to attend the party?"
Muskaan was right. There was speculation about her and Kunal. She could see it in the probing eyes of the staff of Sanjeevani. How did she not see it before! Perhaps Abhi saw it too and tried to warn her, but, she thought he was being jealous and unreasonable. No matter how deeply they loved each other, yet, they were ready to pounce on each other on the slightest pretext! But then never for too long! Passion and desire crushed down every bit of anger and heated words in no time! Oh how she missed him! How much she looked forward to this day.
It was she who put in the suggestion to Abhi, for an annual party at the end of the year for the staff of Sanjeevani so that everyone could use one evening to forget their hectic life and enjoy themselves. She got a signature campaign and showed him how 95% of the staff welcomed the idea. He then agreed and asked her to organize it, since it was her idea. For the past two months, she worked hard with HR and found this beautiful seaside bungalow which was being rented out for weddings and parties, organized the catering and everything else, to make this party a success. And going by the amount of dancers on the dance floor, the party was indeed rocking, but though, everyone seemed to be enjoying the party, she wasn't.
Her eyes kept darting to the entrance hoping for a glimpse of the man she loved, her husband, but, there was no sign of him. Tears of being abandoned, prickled her eyes. Quietly, she walked through the back door till she had reached the tall palm tree on the back lawn. She was glad no one was around and also glad for the darkness, except for the silvery light coming from the full moon
"Where are you Abhi?" her heart thrummed. "I'm sorry for fighting with you. I promise you I won't fight again! Please come to me. I miss you. Please don't let me down" she whispered.
She dialed his number a couple of times and saw it was being disconnected from the other end.
This meant he was still angry. How stupid she was to fight with him! She knew how hot tempered he was and how difficult he could be when consumed with anger and jealousy. Couldn't she have just cleared his suspicions? Why had she let ego take over instead? Secretly she loved his jealousy and possessiveness, yet, those were the very things that also had her fighting against him!
A hand was clamped on her shoulder and her heart leapt with joy!
"Abhi!" she whispered, whirling around in excitement. But, the ecstatic smile died half way through.
"Sorry to disappoint you Nikki,"
"Kunal what are you doing here?" They both said simultaneously.
Kunal grinned at her. His handsome boyish face having brightened up
"I was entering the hall when I noticed you leaving from the back door and so came to check on you. Is everything alright?"
"Kunal, we need to cut down on our friendship in the hospital. There are talks about us and I am not liking it."
"Oh I am sorry. I never realized it."
"Me too. I only knew of it now."
"Hasn't Dr. Modi returned from Bangalore as yet?"
"No, it doesn't look like it." she said sadly, lowering her eyes in an attempt to hide her tears from him.
"Don't look sad. He must have got stuck in something important, but, I am confident he'll be here soon. He knows this party is important to you and he'll definitely be here in support."
"Thanks Kunal, you are a wonderful friend. But, not everyone understand our friendship."
Having gone home and changed for the party, Abhimanyu Modi parked his car in the slot allotted to him in the driveway, some blessings of being the top man! As he climbed up the stairs to the porch, he could hear loud music coming from inside the bungalow. The party was in full swing, but, he was in no mood to join in. Yet, he had to! Inquistive members of the staff would have a watchful eye on him and Nikki tonight. Not that he cared about any of them, but, he did care about Nikki's reputation. Their verdict would be based on his and Nikki's behaviour tonight.
Just then his phone rang. He saw it was the hospital. He climbed down the stairs and moving to the corner of the lawn, answered the call. When he was done and disconnected, his eyes strayed to the back lawn. He could see a couple under the palm tree. He couldn't see the lady's face as she was sheltered by the guy who had his back towards him. He was tall, almost his height and had one hand on the trunk of the tree. Abhi couldn't help smile. Some couple stealing a romantic moment.! How many times he and Nikki did that! He turned to go but just then the lady moved her head flicking her hair back, her face glowing under the glare of the full moon having him transfixed with her beauty, like she always did.
"But, Damn! She was his wife and there was no doubt who the B******d with her was!"
"Yes, I did it!" Kunal smiled.
"You kidding?" Nikki looked disbelievingly at him. "You didn't? you chickened, Right?"
"No I did! And even got an answer?"
"It's a Yes!"
"Yes?" Nikki still looked disbelievingly at him. Then when his words had sunk in, her eyes danced with joy. "Yes! Yes ! Yes!" she repeated ecstatically, throwing her arms around him and embracing him tightly. He laughed aloud
"Thank you," he told her hugging her back. "You're wonderful. I love you!" he told her.
"Finally, you had the courage to say it!" Nikki sighed in relief.
A strong arm suddenly tightened around her waist and before she knew what was going on, she was pulled back into a hard muscled body and saw Kunal being fisted in the jaw, sending him hurtling to the grass below, blood oozing from his lip and nose.
"Kunal!" she gasped in horror and then glancing up sideways, found herself looking into steely chocolate brown eyes which were glinting darkly. "Abhi what have you done to him?"
"Feeling sorry for him? Forget it!" he rasped, gritting his teeth angrily.
"And you!" he snarled at Kunal who was still dizzy with the punch. "the next time I see you anywhere near my wife, I'll kill you."
"You don't understand.........." Kunal moaned, still reeling with pain.
"I meant every word I said. So stay away from my wife!" The "my wife" possessively and deliberately emphasized.
He then swirled Nikki by the waist and taking her hand, wordlessly, dragged her towards the back porch.
"Abhi, stop!" Nikki yelled angrily at him as she was being hurdled up the stairs. "Abhi whats gone wrong with you? What kind of behaviour is that?"
"Shut up and come with me. We've got to go inside and show our faces and also, pretend we are still in love in front of the staff tonight as a damage control for yours and your lover's behaviour of the past few days."
"We don't have to pretend. We do love each other and he isn't my lover .........he is .......
"Just leave it and go along with what I do," he said throwing open the back door. With his arm possessively around her waist he guided her into the hall. There was a loud gasp as the staff of Sanjeevani stared at the beautiful couple. He dressed in a self printed black jacquard shirt teamed with a dark brown jacket and black denim pants and she dressed in a black saree sprayed with silver work all over, with a narrow silver border teamed with a silver beaded string blouse.
"Sorry for being late guys!" Abhi announced. "Hope you're all enjoying yourselves?"
"Yes. Dr. Modi" chorused the happy crowd. "Thank you for the party"
"That credit goes to my lovely wife!" he said darting a cursory glance at her before going back to the others. "It was entirely her idea and she worked hard on it. So she deserves the whole credit and applause."
"Thank you Dr. Nikita" they chorused giving her a thunderous applause. Nikki flashed a smile at them, all the while, her body tingling with sensations caused by her husband's sensuous hand around her waist.
The song Tera Hone Laga hoon started to play in the background.
"Why don't you both join in the dancing Dr. Modi?" someone called out and there was another chorus of "Yes, Yes!"
"Yes, of course!" Abhi smiled at them. He then looked at Nikki, the smile still plastered on his face but not reaching his eyes. "Shall we Sweetheart?" He extended his hand. Nodding her head, Nikki placed her hand in his and followed him to the centre of the dance floor.
As they swayed to the music, he tugged her closer to him, the pull rough and angry. As her body arched and angled against his lean, muscled frame, she felt jitters of pleasure sweeping into her and her senses were beginning to run riot. Oh how she loved the feel of him! How much she missed him. She wanted to throw herself at him, but, the tautness in his jaw told her he was terribly angry with her. How she wished they were not fighting? This time things certainly seemed to have blown out of control. She needed to make him understand there was nothing between her and Kunal.
"Abhi........"she whispered looking loving into his face. "Abhi, there is nothing between Kunal and me, we are just friends........ You shouldn't have hit him like that!"
"There are only two things a husband would do when he sees his wife in another man's arms," he interrupted. "Either he'd kill the B*****d or he'd give up and leave her. But I prefer doing it differently. The punch was a death warning for Kunal and I'll be damned if I let you go away from me, Nikki. I'll fight with all I have but I won't let you go from me." Nikki gasped at his brutal honesty.
"But, I don't want to go away from you, Abhi" She told him. "I love you."
"And that's why you were embracing your so called just friend when he was declaring his love to you, something which you were waiting for !"
"Abhi that's what I want to say ........"
"Leave it Nikki........ Lets not get into this right now. Everyone is watching us!"
"Abhi, please lets not fight!" she whispered gently touching his face. Her touch sent something hot and fierce into him, pushing his anger momentarily at the back of his head, as he stared longingly at the beautiful woman who always drove him crazy. Right now, she was looking even more gorgeous in the saree and he felt desire flare into him. He took her hand he was holding and placed it on his chest. She could feel his heart pounding violently. Then, both his hands snaked down to her back and he pulled her even more closer to him, crushing her body against his. Her hands slithered to the back of his neck and grasped him tightly at the nape, her eyes glazed with desire, her lips quivering with need. "Damn, he wanted to kiss her and he wanted it so bad!"
"Nikki," he whispered in a hoarse groan,
"Abhi" she whispered back, her voice echoing his pent up emotions.
A loud thunderous applause shook them reminding them they were in a crowd and not in the lost private world of their own! With shy, embarassed smiles, they acknowledged the applause and teasing remarks of the gathering.
"Chalo, atleast now the rumours and speculations would be put to rest!" Muskaan told Nikki sometime later when the two were standing alone away from the crowd. Nikki's eyes were on Abhi, standing across the room as he chatted with few of their colleagues.
"When the two of you are together, you are completely lost into each other!" Muskaan teased. " The whole world is forgotten! Isn't it?"
Nikki blushed. Her eyes flipped, once again, to Abhi and saw he was watching her intensely. Their eyes lock. He then turned and walked out through the back door. Her heart sank with disappointment.
Abhi stood on the back porch facing the lawn, his shoulders slightly slouched as his hands gripped the iron railing, his eyes staring into space. The palm tree reminded him of Kunal telling Nikki he loved her and her happiness he finally said those words. Pain and fear ripped through his chest. He couldn't be losing Nikki! He loved her! Damn! Where had he gone wrong? Despair mingled with anger and he thumped his fist on the railing. He was willing not to believe the cards, but, how could he push back their clandestine meeting under the palm tree, away from everyone and then their joyous declaration! Yet, when they were dancing, he could see the love in her eyes. Was that gleam because of her love for him or was it because she was elated with Kunal's words.
The clinking sound of glass bangles brought soft hands around him and before he knew it, he felt her face resting against his back, the whiff of her perfume stirring his senses. Tempted to lean back into her, he braced himself stiff and squeezed his eyes shut.
"Hey," she whispered "Why are you here? Why aren't you inside?"
"I wanted to be alone!" he replied, his voice cold and terse.
"Even away from me?" she teased, ignoring his coldness and leaned even more into him. She then tilted her face up sideways into his face and he caught her gaze which was dancing impishily. "God, he loved her!" he moaned inwardly. "He loved her with every beat of his heart!"
He grabbed her hand and aggressively pulled her in front of him, grasping her tightly in his arms and crushing his lips hungrily against hers. She gasped convulsively under his sudden assault, but, his passionate heat soon had her lifting her hands, scooping them around his neck, her fingers lacing into his hair as she deepened her response to his plundering mouth. Timeless moments later, when their passion had intensified, he pulled back with a low growl and stared into her face.
Can he just push back those latest painful discoveries about her? Can he just pretend they didn't exist? Can it just be him and her and their love and the rest forgotten? But how could he do it! No matter how painful, he had to find the truth from her!
"Lets go home!" he said softly. Nikki blushed. The desire and passion in his eyes gave her a feeling things would be fine between them.
"Let's go in and say our goodbyes," she replied. He nodded his head and putting his hand on the small of her back, led her inside
to be continued......