CHAPTER 3 – LET’S CHITCHAT
The flight did not leave for the next fifteen minutes, but Ahad did not mind. He was a man on a mission.
Abhishek was right. I should find a girlfriend for my family’s sake, even if she is fake. I think I should ask her. She is smart, and a Muslim. Nobody would object.
“Are you going to Cochin?” he started casually.
“This flight is doing to Cochin. Oh, were you supposed to be on a different flight?” she asked.
“But then how did they let you board?” she asked the next question.
“There must have been an oversight,” she concluded.
“It is not…” he attempted to explain.
“Wait, let me call an air hostess. Excuse me?” she said to the passing air hostess.
“I think he got on by mistake. Could you check his boarding pass, please?”
“Sir?” the air hostess looked at him suspiciously.
“I am travelling to Cochin on this very flight as you can see,” he showed the boarding pass.
“Okay,” the air hostess looked puzzled.
“Thank you,” he thanked the hostess and she stayed away.
“Why did you do that? It was a mean thing to do,” he demanded. She is not as nice as she seems, and that makes her a perfect candidate to be my fake girlfriend.
“Why did you ask me about the flight? It was a dumb question,” she replied in the same tone.
“I was bored,” he said sheepishly. You are desperate, but don’t be so obvious, Ahad.
“I was bored, too. That was my entertainment,” she said and unlocked her phone. “Oh, by the way, a better question would be ‘are you going to Mumbai or Cochin?’“
The flight took off shortly and neither said a word for a while, but he was aching to talk to her more, to find out if she’d be willing to help him.
“Nice hairstyle,” he said. That is so lame!
“Okay!” She continued to scroll down the eBook on her phone.
Her nonchalance irked him; the billionaire in him; the yes-man in him; the winner in him. I will break that icy exterior, you pretty woman.
He leaned in and whispered in her ears. “That is a compliment. You should say thank you.”
He expected her to blush or snap, but she surprised him. She leaned in; her shoulder rubbed with his arm.
As she whispered, her lips almost touched his ears. “It is not a hairstyle. It is a bun, the go-to way to tie up hair. Everyone with long hair makes it. I didn’t do it to receive fake compliments. And I won’t say fake thank you for a fake compliment,” she said.
He stared at her face which was too close, again causing a disturbance in his hormonal balance.
She moved away and unlocked her phone again. He gazed at her for long.
Man, she is rude. You don’t have to take it quietly. Talk it out.
“Are you always this rude?” he asked.
Her answer was quick. “Are you always this intrusive?”
He was at a loss for words. “You are…”
“Not interested in socializing. So, if you don’t mind,” she tapped her phone screen.
It is such a shame, Ahad. She looks terrific. She is sharp and has a way with words. She can hold her ground. She would have been perfect. But she is not interested in talking to me. Alright. You can make it an ego issue and look for someone else. Or just irritate her, for fun. Yes, that is more like it.
Go for it, Ahad!
“I am more of a physical book kinda person,” he pestered further. With a resigned sigh, she locked her cell phone and turned to him.
“Why?” she demanded.
Oh, boy. That reply is aggressive. It is not just to continue the chitchat. She looks determined to prove him wrong. Feisty. I like.
“I like holding a book in my hand while I read,” he reasoned eying her with amusement.
“And?” she fetched for more reasons.
Just what I want.
He tried to remember the article that her sister had read aloud and had forced him to listen to it.
He cleared his throat and started thoughtfully, recalling everything that came to his mind. “The smell of freshly printed paper and ink; the pleasure of cutting the pages that aren’t already trimmed; the excitement of flipping through each page eagerly to know how the story unravels next.”
I am just rambling.
“eBook is not much different. It is just paperless and environment-friendly,” she opined.
“Oh, please. You use electricity to charge your phone. That is not environment-friendly,” Ahad countered. Now, it was coming to him naturally.
She was not impressed. She scratched her nose and smirked. Then, she said. “I doubt if you have substantial evidence to prove what harms the environment more – more electricity consumption or more paper consumption. So, that argument is moot.”
That left him speechless; not that he had much of an argument to begin with. It was just his desperate attempt to know her better, check if she’d be willing to help him.
“Why do you like the eBook, if I may ask?” he asked.
“Must you?” she asked, and he nodded eagerly, amused by her expressions. “It doesn’t take physical space. I don’t have to go to buy it. “
“You can do the same with physical books, with Amazon and Flipkart,” he said. Good counterargument, Ahad!
“The digital book gets delivered immediately. It is convenient and convenience trumps everything else,” she offered more reasons.
“I see,” he nodded.
She smiled triumphantly and rested her back against the seat.
A few moments passed. Ahad kept glancing at her now and then, but she kept staring outside the window, seemingly oblivious to him or his charismatic presence.
What do I talk about now?
“You must be wondering why I have two heavy bags,” he said.
Moomal turned her head, gave him a once over, and a tiny smile appeared on her full lips.
No, but I see you want to share, she thought. “Sure,” she said.
Thank goodness, she replied positively. I wouldn’t have known any other way to resume the conversation. He flashed one of his best and most charming smiles, smiles that worked on women.
“I travel a lot for business, and I prefer to travel light but this time I received a list of things to bring from Bhopal. You see, the women of her family have access to the best of Indian and international retailers and brands. But…” his voice trailed. He forgot that he was wearing a narrative for her benefit. Now, he was genuinely confused. Why did women shop so much?
Moomal threw her head back and laughed wholeheartedly.
“But… women cannot have enough clothes and shoes and bags,” she opined cheekily.
“Exactly,” he said. Great job, Ahad! She is finally showing interest. “That is why I have two bags full of the items I purchased from the local markets that are exquisite of Bhopal.”
“Really?” she arched her eyebrow, “did you shop?”
“No,” he laughed. “I requested two ladies from my local office to do me a favour and they agreed.”
“I am sure they were more than happy to do it,” she mumbled. If someone as hot as he asks me to shop for him, I would willingly do that. Heck, I will sleep with him if he asks me. Oh, shut up Moomal. You are on a mission right now.
“What’s that?” he leaned in and asked.
“Nothing,” she quickly said, not wanting to argue about her opinion on his looks or her dirty thoughts about him.
“So, I handed over my credit card and the list with my notes about preferred colours because I know my family’s choices.”
“That is smart,” she opined. Thank goodness your story is over. “I am going to close my eyes a bit,” she said.
“Me too,” he smiled sweetly.
A runaway girl, a reluctant guy and a compromise for mutual benefit…
Moomal Khan is a data scientist from Bhopal. She holds a job profile that was regarded highly and paid handsomely. But she is forced to leave her job and run away.
Ahad Siddiqui is from Cochin. He is handsome, highly regarded in business circles as a self-made invincible billionaire entrepreneur. But he is forced to get hitched. When his friend suggests hiring a fake girlfriend, he hates the idea but cannot seem to rid of it.
Their paths cross as they wait for their flight to Cochin. He is desperate to get his mother off his case. He tries to woo her, and she tries to shoo him away.
“Once Upon a Contract” is a sweet and saucy romantic comedy based on a contract marriage romance trope.
Book 1 – Once Upon a Crush – Hiba & Ubaid
Book 2 – Once Upon a Stalker – Zoya & Onir
Book 3 – Once Upon a Contract – Moomal and Ahad
Click here to buy on Amazon.in or enter B08S7BGR7P in the search field for other Amazon marketplaces.
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