Chapter 1

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"Om, Sarva Mangal Maangalya..." the two priests chanted in synchronization.

Silently, another invisible wave of gloom surged in the opulent living hall of the landmark bungalow in Jaipur known as Rajvansh Vilas.

In fact, the grim manner in which the priests were chanting the mantras, they could have easily been performing someone's last rites instead of the wedding ceremony. Had it not been for a blank-faced groom and a stoic bride's presence, it could have just been that. The total of three witnesses of this holy matrimony looked as grave. Nary a smile was in sight.

It was only natural as the family had lost their younger son, Abhay Rajvansh, merely a month back in a helicopter crash. The groom, Uday Rajvansh, was now the only son of the house. Kaveri Devi, the mother of the groom, wiped away a tear from the corner of her eye before it could stream down. As it is the atmosphere was too glum, she didn't want to add to it. But the hearts were all heavy nonetheless. Apart from her, Gulal Singh, the caretaker of the vast Rajvansh Vilas and man-Friday of the sorts to Uday, was also in attendance. His loyal family was in the service of this family for generations and he too had been with Uday Hukum since his adolescence. Hukum, was Rajvansh men's traditional address among the household employees and in Rajvansh's native township which was also their election seat.

The third witness present there was in no way or form related to anyone in the room. He, however, was the only one from the bride's side. Anthony D'Silva was an IAS officer and the secretary to the home minister of the country. An important man, he had a big hand in making this wedding happen. But he would be the first person to admit that it had taken him almost everything he had in terms of connections, clout, tact, truth and persuasion abilities, to get the leader of the opposition of Rajasthan State Assembly who was also the scion of the Rajvansh business empire, to this mandap. However, he did it and was extremely glad for it. His elder sister, who had taken the oath to serve God by becoming a nun when he was still in college had never asked anything from him. She had, in fact, severed all her connections from the family. It was him who had tried to meet her at least once every few years since the last thirty years. She had devoted herself to the service of humanity and God with single-mindedness. However, it was to help this girl, the bride, that she had contacted him for the very first time in her life.

He couldn't let her down. It was the only thing she'd ever asked of him.

Though that hadn't stopped him from judging this beautiful young girl by the societal standards and find her severely lacking. Unwed and pregnant by the well-known playboy Abhay Rajvansh, he had pegged her as clever and greedy. Especially when his sister had insisted that this pretty girl who had been brought up in the orphanage of their church should be 'taken care' by Rajvansh family only as it is their responsibility as well. Of course, he had thought cynically. The kind of rich 'care' they would take can't be compared to any other kind of help. The girl had set her sights a tad too high, in his opinion. However, as per the girl, she had been used by Abhay Rajvansh who was avoiding her like plague now. Anthony had wiped all expression from his face and had nodded at everything she said only because he didn't want to antagonize his sister who seemed to believe her. Any way, Abhay Rajvansh was a useless lothario and would have rightly deserved getting saddled with such a girl. But before he could set the wheels in motion, the younger Rajvansh had up and died, literally, while trying to take off in his personal chopper under the influence.

The girl got majorly lucked out. Just when she got Anthony in her corner who could make things go her way, her intended target perished. Obviously, her options drastically reduced after that. The only few that Anthony could think of was termination, giving up the baby to Rajvanshs in return of financial reward, or marrying someone else. The first one was going to be mighty hard after the girl had involved Anthony's sister in her saga. The pious woman had involved herself into this mess solely for the sake of the unborn baby. If it would have only been the girl in question, Sister Sophia would have simply prayed for her soul, nothing more. Going by Anthony's opinion of her, the girl should have gone for the second option wherein she would have gotten good money and zero responsibility. But the girl surprised him when she opted for the third option. She was ready to get married to anyone as long as her baby was not born illegitimate. Even to one of Anthony's widowed assistant who was twice her age and already a father of two teenaged kids.

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