The car ride was silent and I took this time to properly look at Riddhima. She was wearing a modest light blue dress that suited her well. She was looking beautiful and my grandmother’s ring fit perfectly on her slender finger.
I sighed as I thought about Aahan. That sneaky little brat had skillfully avoided going to this dinner and then had the audacity to give me a thumbs up when we were heading out the door. I was going to make sure that Angre would be extra tough on him in their next practice session.
The Maestri mansion appeared in view and I let out a loud groan. Riddhima looked at me in confusion but I just shook my head in return. I had half the mind to turn around and go home, sparing the both of us from this torture but it was a necessary evil. The only thing motivating me was that after today there would be no more of Mansi’s unwanted advances that always made dinner uncomfortable. Even father had noticed!
I parked in the garage, noticing my father’s car was already here. I helped Riddhima out of the car, tucked her left hand in the crook of my arm and escorted her to the main door. Even before I could raise my arm to ring the doorbell, the door opened and Mansi greeted us with a broad smile that dimmed when she saw Riddhima and vanished when she noticed the engagement ring on her finger.
Before she could say anything, Mr. Maestri and father joined us. They each had a glass of scotch in their hands and looked to be laughing about something. Mr. Maestri smiled at Riddhima and extended his hand in greeting.
“Hello, I am Antonio Maestri.”
Riddhima smiled back at him and shook his hand while answering.
“Hello Mr. Maestri, I am Riddhima Shah.”
“Oh I know. You are all Adarsh has been talking about since he came here. You were very brave when you went after those guys to save Aahan. I can see why Vansh here would be so smitten by you.”
He let out a hearty laugh and father joined him while Riddhima blushed and mumbled thank you under her breath and Mansi glared at Riddhima. I covered Riddhima’s hand that was tucked into the crook of my elbow and frowned as Mansi’s glare intensified. Mr. Maestri continued the conversation, oblivious to his daughter’s growing anger.
“Here, this is my daughter Mansi.”
A devilish glint entered her eyes as she stretched her hand for a handshake and her lips formed a weirdly sweet smile. This unsettled me. Mansi was planning something and I knew that it was related to Riddhima. So before Riddhima could shake Mansi’s hand I pulled her into my side and slightly angled her away from Mansi. She gave me a confused look but directed a gentle smile towards Mansi.
“Hello Mansi, nice to meet you.”
Mansi scowled at Riddhima, turned on her heels and left. Riddhima frowned and turned to question me but before she could utter a word I directed my gaze to Mr. Maestri.
“Can we come in Uncle?”
“Oh! How very forgetful of me. Please do come in.”
We proceeded towards the living room where Mansi was already seated with a glass of wine in one hand. She got up and walked towards us as soon as we entered into the room. She smiled sweetly and placed her hand on my shoulder.
“Can I steal your sweetheart for a while Vansh?”
She questioned with big innocent eyes and glided her hand slowly down my arm making me uncomfortable. I moved my body away from her wandering hands and behind Riddhima. She gave me a look which I could not decipher and turned towards Mansi with a small smile.
She said and removed her hand from my arm to go with Mansi. They occupied the love seat near the fireplace leaving me to sit on the armchair near the couch where Mr. Maestri and Dad were currently immersed in an intense discussion about Scotch. As they saw me sitting nearby, the topic of discussion changed to business and I listened to them half heartedly. My focus was on Riddhima and Mansi’s conversation which I could hear clearly from the couch.
“You want a glass of wine or perhaps whisky?”
Riddhima shook her head and declined the drinks offered by Mansi. I helped myself to a glass of cognac and leaned back into the chair which was angled towards the couch.
“So how did you two meet? You know Vansh shares everything with me but he never mentioned you so I was a little shocked with this sudden news of engagement.”
Riddhima raised her eyebrows on Mansi’s comment and gave a disbelieving look in my direction. She cleared her throat and gave Mansi a tight smile.
“Well we go to the same university so I guess we know each other for about two years now. What about you? If Vansh shares everything with you than you must be very close to him.”
I frowned hearing Riddhima’s question. Mansi gave a delightful laugh and answered happily.
“Of course we are close. We have known each other since… I don’t even remember how long. It seems like forever you know.”
“Oh really! Well if you are Vansh’s bestfriend than I am surprised that this is the first time I am hearing about you.”
I stifled my laugh while taking a sip of the cognac. From my peripheral vision I could see Mansi getting angry and preparing herself for a tirade. So before she could open her mouth, I gained everyone’s attention by loudly clearing my throat.
“Uncle lets have dinner. I am starving.”
“Yeah it’s getting late. Let’s go!”
Uncle and Dad exited the room with their glasses and I guided Riddhima towards the dinning table where the servants were placing the bowls of soup. I pulled out a chair for Riddhima and just as she was about to sit, I saw that Mansi ‘accidently’ pushed a woman who was carrying one of the bowls of soup and the woman lost her balance. The tray slipped from her hands, the bowl of hot scalding soup tipped to one side and was going to fall all over Riddhima.
I shouted her name in warning and pulled her into me. Her head tucked under my chin, her arm around my bicep and both my arms around her back, shielding her from the hot soup. All was silent for a second and after that I heard Riddhima hiss in pain. I looked down to where her other hand was holding the chair and saw that some of the soup had fallen on her forearm. I threw a venomous glare at Mansi to which she gulped and averted her eyes.
“Get me some ice.”
I barked out the order and pulled a dazed Riddhima to the nearest washroom. She came to when I pulled her hand under the tap and rinsed the affected area with cold water. The skin was blemished with angry red welts and I burned with the same red rage. I could not even imagine that Mansi would stoop this low, hurt someone innocent just because she did not get what she wanted.
I gritted my teeth in anger and rubbed gentle circles on the infected area of her skin. A hand on my chest broke through my thoughts and I saw Riddhima looking at me with a smile on her face.
“It was an accident Vansh. You look like you want to kill someone.”
I frowned down at her smiling face.
“It was not an accident and I do want to kill someone.”
She sighed, removed her hand from my hold and held it under the light. After looking at the burn, she shrugged and dropped her hand.
“Ah! It’s nothing.”
“It’s nothing?” I asked her incredulously.
“I have had worst injuries than this minor burn.”
She waved her arm around and then pointed to two distinct scars, one on her left wrist and the other on her right hand fingers.
“You see this scar on the wrist; I got burned by hot oil while I was trying to fry something. And the one on my fingers…”
She broke off and gave a small laugh, a silly smile adoring her lips.
“I got that scar when I lifted a hot vessel directly from the oven without gloves.”
“I forbid you from entering the kitchen ever again.”
I stated seriously but she started laughing again which made me frown. Before I could tell her that I was serious, we were interrupted by a knock. The door to the washroom opened and the same woman who had been carrying that tray stood there with a pack of ice in her hands, her head bowed down.
“I am so sorry madam. It was an accident. I …”
Before she could continue, Riddhima reached forward and put her hand on the woman’s arm and gave it a light squeeze.
“It’s okay. You don’t need to apologize. And thank you for bringing the ice.”
I took the ice from the woman and gently turned Riddhima towards me. She held her hand out and I placed the ice on her forearm which caused her to wince slightly. I balled my other hand into a fist and took deep breaths to calm my anger.
After a few minutes when the ice was starting to melt, Riddhima removed her arm and took the pack from me. She kept it on the counter and examined her hand below the light again. Some of the redness had dissipated but the welts were still present. She signed and turned towards me.
“Let’s have dinner. I am really starving.”
She pulled me towards the dining area where everyone was seated. Dad got up and came towards us followed by Mr. Maestri when we entered. He took Riddhima’s hand into his own and inspected the wound.
“Are you okay dear? Is it paining?”
Riddhima took Dad’s hands in hers and squeezed them slightly.
“I am okay Dad. It was a little accident.”
“Well I am glad. If you want I can order someone to fetch a cream for you dear.”
Mr. Maestri said in an apologetic tone. Riddhima smiled and shook her head.
“It is okay Mr. Maestri. We will pick one up on our way home.”
I saw Mansi sitting and pretending as if all this was not her fault. My anger stirred and I held Riddhima’s hand while facing Uncle and Dad.
“If you don’t mind uncle, I would like to get going. We will fetch the cream and head home. I don’t want Riddhima to endure pain during dinner.”
Mr. Maestri nodded in understanding and I inclined my head towards Dad in greeting and got out of there as fast as I could while completely ignoring Mansi. Once we were seated inside the car, I drove away and stopped near the first pharmacy. Riddhima stayed inside the car and I went to get the cream. I returned with three different creams and Riddhima laughed as she saw me.
“Vansh I don’t have a third degree burn. I don’t need this much cream.”
She stated while smiling. I frowned at her and looked down at the three creams in my hand.
“The pharmacist said that these three were the best for burns.”
I was about to open the cream but Riddhima stopped me by putting her hands on mine.
“No, not now. These creams have a very bad smell and I am hungry.”
“What does one have to do with the other?”
I asked sternly as she gave a grimace followed by a cute pout.
“You literally dragged me away from the Maestri’s. The food was so mouth watering and I told you I am hungry. Now if you apply this on my hand I won’t be able to eat anything as its smell will make me gag.”
I raised my eyebrows in amusement as her behavior resembled Aahan right now.
“Okay. Why don’t you apply the cream on your hand now and when we get home you can wash your hands and eat.”
I tried to reason with her but she scrunched up her nose and shook her head.
“No. Who is going to cook when we reach home? You don’t know how to cook, I don’t want to cook and Martha has already left. You told me we are going to dinner so we will have dinner some place else.”
She declared and I sighed but obliged as even I was hungry.
“So what do you want to eat?”
I asked her and she tapped her index finger on her chin while thinking.
“Oh lets go to that burger place near the university. I have heard that it’s amazing.”
I nodded and started the car. The ride was silent and we reached there within ten minutes. I parked the car and we went into the restaurant together. She shivered slightly as the wind blew through the wooden bars of the open spaced restaurant. I took off my jacket and draped it over her shoulder. She passed me a grateful smile and pulled the jacket tightly over her shoulders.
We chose a spot near the wall and placed our orders. When the waiter left, Riddhima stared at me with a peculiar look on her face. I frowned and leaned back in my chair with raised eyebrows. She put her elbow on the table and her face in her palm. After a few seconds she asked me with narrowed eyes.
“Why did you not stop Mansi when she touched you?”
I was taken aback by her sudden question but then I had to satisfy my curiosity first.
“Why did you knowingly anger Mansi?”
Her mouth hung open and she had an incredulous look on her face. I chuckled in amusement.
“Did you overhear our conversation? You know eavesdropping is a bad habit Mr. Raisinghania.”
She stated all seriously but this caused me to laugh out loud. She frowned and shook her head in irritation. I quietened after some time and cleared my throat to gain her attention.
“No but seriously. Why did you do that?”
“She was making my fiancé uncomfortable. I wasn’t just going to sit there and watch.”
She stated in an obvious tone and I felt warm from within after listening to her. Before we could say anything, our food arrived and she eagerly dug in as the conversation was left unfinished.
Later, after I applied the cream and tucked her in for the night, that warm feeling in my chest still remained and grew when I gave a goodnight kiss on her forehead before switching off the lights and returning to my room.
I am sorry for posting this late but I was busy and also I had encountered a writer’s block. But now I think I will post frequently.
So please keep the likes and comments going to encourage me.
Thank you so much.
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