Team – FrontRunners
Read the previous chapter here.
“Can we get some lights in the alcove as well? And why is the corridor not lighted up yet?” an exasperated Tara shouted at the electrician who was busy fixing the LED lights in the fake pine branch.
It was Christmas Eve and the Dutta family were throwing a private party that evening in their penthouse apartment, located in the Worli Sea-face road. Tara had been busy since morning, personally supervising all arrangements for the party and taking extra care to make sure everything was dripping perfection. Her boss from the ad-agency was coming over and she was not going to leave any stone unturned to impress him.
“Relax Tara. It’s just your boss, not effing Iron Man who’s coming.”
Shekhar had already been making lame excuses for boycotting the party and Tara could detect jealousy and perhaps a hint of insecurity in his face, so she smiled back at him.
“What am I gonna wear?”
The question was redundant, since she had already decided the dress for the occasion, but the expression on Shekhar’s face at that moment was priceless.
An hour later, a ravishing Tara emerged from her room, wearing an elegantly cut ivory white Anita Dongre number with slits for leg and sequinned straps that were held together in the back with a single jewelled chain. By the piercing looks Shekhar gave her, she knew it was a show stopper.
“Good”, she thought, “let him have a taste of his own medicine”.
The guests had started arriving and soon Tara was busy playing the perfect hostess. The Arabian Sea glimmered in the distance with the soft rays of the setting sun playing its notes on the waves. It was a perfect evening for a perfect betrayal, thought Tara. Her thoughts were distracted with the sounds of commotion coming from the lobby. The chief guest has arrived.
Aryan Ahuja was a beast of a man. At 6.1” he was tall, dark and powerful with brown eyes that had a hypnotic intensity about them, and a sculptured physique that looked as if chiseled with a hammer. His neck bore the tattoo of a Scorpio, with its sting ending right at the veins of his throat. He was dressed in an expensive black tailored shirt, but not extravagantly so, which was opened at the throat and neatly tucked in a pair of cream linen trousers. A single Tag Heuer watch adorned his wrist.
A self-made man, Aryan Ahuja was a law unto himself, completely unfazed of what others thought of him and utterly ridiculing any gift of opinion. With an icy reserve that could freeze an ice cream twice over, he would usually drawl on any and every topic under the sun until it bored him, at which point he would simply get up and leave the party, without even caring to inform the host. He was at the same time, both kind and ruthless – never forgetting a favour and never letting go of an insult – with a temper that sometimes burnt down buildings and lives alike. With a razor- sharp intellect and a weird passion for living on the edge, he flirted with life as if it was his personal mistress, which is why he was on the list of most wanted men in the secret dossiers of the Research & Analysis Wing of India.
Little, if any of this information had ever reached Tara. Blessedly ignorant, she went forward to greet the ruthless Mafia kingpin who adorned her drawing room at that moment.
“Merry Christmas, Aryan. So glad you could make it”, a smiling Tara welcomed Aryan, signalling the waiter to serve him drinks.
“Merry Christmas to you too, Tara. Glad to be invited. Here, I bought some wine.” And saying this, Aryan leaned forward and slightly pecked Tara on the cheek.
“Where is that writer husband of yours? He owes me a round of poker. It’s paytime!”
Tara was still blushing from the warm peck to reply coherently, but to her relief, Shekhar came up at that moment and she left the two to their duels.
The night was progressing smoothly so far; Shekhar had joined Aryan on the terrace and the floor was being cleared for dancing. Tara decided to hit the bar and have a punch mixed for her.
“You are giving me a heart attack right now, gorgeous.”
It was a mere whisper but it made her heart leap to her mouth, as she turned to face the green eyes that now bore down upon her, lingering on her dress just for a second longer than etiquette demanded.
Her dress had been a question that had kept her awake for the last one week. After all, her boss was not the only one coming to that party. She had discreetly slipped an invitation card under Cyrus’ door the other night, fervently hoping he would accept. The next morning he had RSVP’d back. Tara had smiled to herself as she eyed the smooth black letters – the date is on.
“Merry Christmas, Cyrus” she managed to blurt out.
“Four more hours to go, before you can be allowed to be merry, dear. Till then, care to take a walk with me?”
“I can’t think of a reason why not!” An elated Tara walked into the terrace leaning on Cyrus’ arm. She smiled when she saw Shekhar’s smile freeze into a gremlin’s glare.
Merry Christmas to me, she thought and finished the punch in a single gulp.
Read the next chapter here.