Once Nikki settled herself in the crook of his arm, her legs entwined with his, Abhi opened his sleepless eyes. A small smile curved his lips. He couldn't believe that the same girl who was trembling sometime ago at the thought of sharing his room,his bed was now sound asleep in his arms; oblivious to how close she was to the man she wanted to run away from.
Nikki……he thought repeating her name in his mind. He still remembered the first time she had fallen into his arms. She had been shouting outside his office, "Chooha chooha" and had fallen in his arms and sent electricity through his body. So many things scared her, rats, cats, darkness, being alone and what not. Still she faced the world with so much strength that she amazed him.
Her Heart…..everyone she loved had broken it once. First it had been her parents. They had made her feel unwanted. Then it had been her best friend Armaan. She had believed herself in love with him but her heart broke when she lost him to Riddhima. Then it had been him * he sighs shaking his head*He was the worst. He had made her suffer for her one mistake, had been unforgiving and mean to the hilt. In spite of this, Nikki loved and missed her parents. He had seen her post a few letters to her parents when she thought no one noticed. She loved Armaan and Riddhima more than ever and had been instrumental in getting them together. Him, the one who made her cry, she had married him…..so he could keep his beloved daughter.
He hadn't let her forget the fact that she hid their marriage, when she had every right to. He understood where she was coming from. Come to think of it, what had he offered her? A marriage…..just as a faade to keep Tia? What was she supposed to tell the world? But what had she made of this marriage. She had won his daughter's heart and these two beauties in his life were inseparable. She had made him fall insanely in love with her. How he kept his hands to himself when she was in his vicinity……he didn't even want to go there. Having her sleeping in his arms was sweet torture.
Somehow reading his mind, his wife decides to toture him more. Nikki moves closer to him in her sleep shifting her head to his chest. Her hands bunched his T-shirt and she murmured her satisfaction softly, "mmmm" she breathes coming closer and Abhi rolls his eyes.
"You wanna kill me wifey?" he asks her sleeping form and tries to gently untangle her soft body from his but she lets her displeasure known. Her brows knit in a frown and she refuses to let go of his t-shirt. He gently rolls her to the other side and she moves, making herself comfortable and going back to sleep. He gets up and starts pacing his room.
However much he loved Nikki, she had landed them in a huge mess by inviting that man to stay here with them. "Nikki…..when will you stop trusting everyone sweetheart?" he thinks aloud. Restless and the fear of Tia being taken from him growing by the second, he walks to his daughter's room.
He sits next to Tia and looks at her sleeping form. He lovingly brushes her face hair from her face and adjusts the covers she had kicked in her sleep. He also takes her thumb out of her mouth and smiles.
Tia….it meant princess in Egyptian. His daughter was the princess of his heart. He had fallen in love with this little girl, the moment her small hand had curled around his finger and she had given him her first toothless smile. Aarti had always laughed when he used to tell her that children were supposed to be ignored. Her comeback was….."Abhimanyu….wait till you have one of your own". Tia was his own now. She had entered his life and made it brighter. Nikki had followed right behind her and his life was complete.
That man was here to take his princess away from him. Nikki was ready to leave him as soon as Tia's case got settled. His heart broke. His breathing stopped at the immense pain which came with the truth. A lone tear slid down the strong Dr. Modi's cheek. It was difficult to lose someone who was a part of your breath, a part of your heart, a part of you or you were a part of them.
"I love you Tiu…..my baby" he caressed her baby cheeks softly and started playing with her small hands, praying for the pain to abate. After a minute, Tia's fingers closed over his finger and his pain vanished.
"I won't let you go Tia…..not this time…..and that mother of yours…..she better start thinking again if she thinks she can leave us. You two girls are mine and I intend to keep you both with me" his strength coming back, he places a kiss on his sleeping daughter's forehead, frees his fingers and goes back to his room.
He gets back into bed and turns Nikki to him. "Wifey…..back in my arms" he orders her and goes off to sleep, holding his wife tightly in his embrace, smile on his lips.
Nikki stirs lightly in the morning, a smile curving her face. She was so warm and had slept so soundly for the first time in years. Her nightmares, all those voices fighting, her fear of being alone, had not bothered her last night. She tries to stretch when she feels a weight on her waist. She looks down and sees a hand wrapped possessively across her waist. Her breath stops. Slowly she turns and collides into a hard chest. Her eyes fly to her husband's face and color rushes to her face. She was supposed to be in the other corner. Here she was on his side of the bed, his arms around her, his legs entwined with hers. * Oh god….oh god…oh god….what ….I…get up Nikki* her brain screams and she tries to push herself up when Abhi's grip tightens and she is pushed back on the bed.
"Where are you running" his groggy voice asks and Nikki looks up but his eyes are closed.
"Abhi….I….ummm…I" she is at a loss to explain and tries to push his arm away but his grip tightens and he pulls her to himself.
"Chodo" she says breathlessly.
"Sorry….you are hogging my side of the bed " he replies his eyes still closed.
"Abhi please….don't start early in the morning" she chides him trying to get out of his grip, which funnily keeps getting stronger and pulling her closer.
"Good morning Wifey" he wishes her and snuggles closer to her and she stiffens on instinct.
"Abhi please" she tries to struggle out of his grip.
"Please what?" he asks, his finger moving slowly and caressingly on her cheek and Nikki gasps and starts struggling.
"Be Still" he says a little louder and angrier and Nikki goes limp in shock.
"Yea…..where was I" and he starts caressing her cheek and then his finger moves to her neck. Nikki realizes what he had done and starts pinching him to let her go.
"Not a good idea Nikki" he says lazily capturing her hands on the side and his wife under him.
"Please….let me go" she implores, seeing no other way out.
"Fine" he bends down and places his lips on hers softly and moves away.
Nikki jumps out of the bed as if all the hell fires are on her and hears him sniggering behind her.
"Oh you" she turns and throws her pillow at him, which he deftly avoids. "Why do you always have to trouble me?" she asks turning angry eyes on him, her hands on her hips.
"I am not troubling you Wifey…..just practicing" he replies nonchalantly crossing his hands under his head and appraising her slowly, his eyes roaming the length of her body from top to bottom very slowly.
Uncomfortable at his perusal, Nikki folds her arms in front of her, wishing she had the pillow to hug which she had thrown at him. Shifting uncomfortably under his gaze, she grabs the comforter from him but he holds on to it. She tugs at it and he tugs it forcefully and Nikki lets it go.
"Practicing what?" she asks turning away from him and gathering her stuff which was lying about from last night.
"To be loving towards my wife" he replies in a tone filled with love. Nikki stops what she is doing and turns around to gape at him and finds him standing behind her.
"What?" she echoes.
"Nikki…..you made that man stay with us…..I want him to believe that this marriage is real….so you better not let anything slip…..I can't afford to lose Tia" he tells her slowly and understanding dawns in Nikki's eyes.
"Oh" she says, her heart paining "I thought you meant" but she stops looking down.
"What?" he lifts her chin to make her look in his eyes.
"Nothing important" she gives him a semblance of a smile and moves to turn but he tugs her back and holds her loosely at the waist.
"It's really important….I hope you understand" he asks her and she nods. He bends and places a kiss on her lips and whispers in her ears, "I meant what you thought" and heads to the bathroom leaving a confused Nikki.
*I thought that you meant that you love me……but you meant that you had to act to love me…..No Abhi….you didn't mean what I thought* and she starts with getting ready.
All ready and showered Abhi goes to Tia's room and finds her awake and playing. They walk out to the kitchen and he starts her with milk and gets the tea ready when Nikki joins them.
"Abhi ….Uncle didn't wake up as yet?" she inquires and Abhi shrugs.
She rolls her eyes and goes to knock on his door. He doesn't open it and she knocks a little louder. After what seems like an eternity Mr. Bakshi opens the door in a haggard condition. Concerned Nikki asks him what is wrong and he says nothing. She touches his forehead and finds him a little warm. He blames it to jetlag and Nikki insists he rest. "I am fine Nikita…..I don't want you to worry about me….I'll be out after getting fresh" he says and Nikki agrees.
"Abhi…..uncle is not well" she announces and he looks at her exasperated.
"Nice…..now what?" he asks her.
"Nothing…..let him stay here ok…..and tell her" she uses her eyes to point to Tia.
"Nikki…..I have to meet Dr. Shashank today briefly….so I'll be out for sometime….will you be able to handle Tia and him?" he asks her concerned.
"Meet him for what?" she asks.
"Oh we have a new investor for our New Sanjeevani project…….they want to take over the whole project and we won't have to depend on government grants……so I just need to go through the details with Dr. Gupta" he shares the good news with her and she smiles.
"Sure….go ahead…..but come soon…Ok" she smiles.
"Why? Will you miss me?" he asks naughtily and she doesn't answer his question but moves towards Tia.
"Tiu….guess who is here to see you?" she asks her daughter, lovingly patting her cheek.
"Dunno" she replies and lifts questioning eyes towards her mother.
"Your Dadu" she supplies and sees fear flood in those innocent eyes. Tia jumps from her chair and runs towards Abhimanyu while Nikki looks on in shock.
"Daddy" she wails, lifting her arms to be picked. Abhi lifts her in his lap and she hides her face in his chest. "Tia" he tries to lift her face but she starts sobbing.
"Tiu…what happened?" Abhi asks concerned and Nikki bends next to him.
"I don't wanna go" she replies between her sobs.
"Go where Tiu?" he asks her while Nikki runs her hand on the child's back to soothe her.
"Daddy….I love you…..please don't make me go" she cries her sobbing intensifying. Confused Abhi and Nikki look at each other wondering what brought this on.
"Tiu" Nikki tries to talk to her but she refuses to look up.
"Ok…..no one is going anywhere ok….now look at me" Abhi tries to cajole her out of his chest and finally manages.
"Why are you crying Tiu?" He asks her.
"He take me…..I don't like him" she tells him wiping her eyes.
"Tia …..I won't take you" Mr. Bakshi's painful voice reassures the child who hides back in her father's chest. Abhimanyu's angry gaze clashes with the older man's pleading one.
"Look what you did" he accuses him.
"It's Ok Tia…..he will be gone soon…..no one is going to take you" he promises his daughter looking at Mr. Bakshi. Tia manages to stop crying and starts drinking her milk.
"Tia….I have pictures of cookies" Mr. Bakshi informs the small girl softly, placing her favorite dog's pictures in front of the girl.
She takes the pictures and looks at them and smiles but refuses to look at her grandfather, whose heart swells at seeing her smile.
Abhimanyu leaves for the meeting and Nikki tries her level best to make Tia act friendly towards the elder man. When Tia is in the restroom, Nikki sits and talks to Mr. Bakshi.
"I am sorry Uncle….I don't know why?" she tries to explain when he stops her.
"It's my fault Nikita……I never tried to befriend her…..when she was with us…..all I did was get angry with her……now she doesn't like me" he states sadly.
"Uncle….please….kids say such things….she will come around" Nikki reassures him and he smiles.
When Tia comes out all dressed, Nikki asks her to say hello to her grandfather.
"No Nikki" she says and tries to snatch her hand out of her mother's.
"Why Tiu?" Nikki asks sitting down on her haunches.
"He gets angry" Tia replies.
"He won't…..I promise…Ok….will you try please?" she asks Tia lovingly.
"No" Tia is adamant.
"Please" Nikki implores and Tia nods a yes slowly.
"Hi Dadu" she says and hides behind Nikki and Mr. Bakshi's eyes fill and he mouths a "Thanks" to Nikki.
"Hi Tia…..I got something for you….would you like it?" he asks and Tia peeps from behind Nikki's legs and nods. He gets up and asks her to follow him to his room.
There he has a few presents laid out for Tia and she shrieks with happiness. Both the adults smile and she starts opening her presents. The last one is an old teddy.
"Noddy" Tia says reverently and Nikki looks at Mr. Bakshi inquiringly.
"Her father's" he replies and Nikki understands. As the day passes, Tia becomes friendlier towards her grandfather and slowly starts playing and talking with him.
After a few hours, a furious Abhimanyu enters the house and asks Nikki where Tia is. "Asleep" she answers.
"Mr. Bakshi?" he enquires and Mr. Bakshi walks in to the living room.
"You….how dare you?" Abhimanyu turns towards him and throws some papers on him.
"Abhi" Nikki looks at him appalled.
"Oh don't look at me…..look at him….meet the new investor of Sanjeevani" he throws at her and a shocked Nikki looks at Mr. Bakshi.