Shiv paced the narrow confines of the cabin acutely aware of the love of his life upstairs probably brooding and not sleeping. It was 4AM, almost an hour since he had returned from the rendezvous with Maanav. His sharp eyes had seen the Shadow at the window move indicating Padma was not sleeping.
It also flattered him that she was waiting for him. Was it out of concern for him or fear of being left alone in the remote wilderness? He wasn’t sure. But from what he knew about Padma, it was the former. These feelings were very new for him… No one had been bothered about him before, not at this personal level.
Given the realization about his late mother, all he wanted was to be hugged by Padma, and remain engulfed in her caring warmth. The softness of her bosom as she cradled his head gave him a kind of bliss beyond physical gratification. Did he damage their relationship forever?
But he never stood a chance, did he? She was royalty and he was just… He couldn’t undo what transpired in the heat of the moment, but it clenched his heart to arrive at a decision. He wouldn’t get close to her. It would be easier to part that way; he would be able to survive the heartbreak…. Probably.
He still needed to get information out of her. The evidence was there somewhere, and he didn’t have a clue. Time was running out, and he barely had hours before marching gun blazing to the fort. Without hard evidence, everything would be at stake.
He had to think hard.
Just then, he heard a crash outside. It probably was a weak tree that fell. But immediately on high alert, he swiped off the tiny lantern flame, plunging the house into complete darkness. Princess Padma’s safety was of utmost importance, and he rushed upstairs.
She had locked her door, as she did for the last couple of days.
“Princess…” He whispered as loudly as possible, trying to figure out any movement or noise outside. So far, so good. But his gut instinct said otherwise. Did he hear the crackling of leaves? He wasn’t sure. He wasn’t able to focus, given the situation at hand. He could have taken a dozen men down any other time, irrespective of their hideouts. But tonight, the Princess’s safety held predominance.
There was no sound. He knocked slightly louder.
“Princess… please open the door. I need to check if you are OK…”
No response. His adrenaline was pumping at a gigantic pace and all he could think about was her safety.
He couldn’t wait anymore. He used his uninjured shoulder to break open the door using all his might. In two hits the door separated from its hinges and hung precariously close to falling off. He rushed in but the Princess wasn’t in her bed. Then, before panic set in completely, he heard her. He didn’t care about being caught and using his pentorch, he pointed in the direction of the weak muffle.
Padma sat in the corner of the room with her knees bent and close to her body. He didn’t need more light to know she was scared to the core. Shutting down the light source, he rushed toward her. He had to calm her down before explaining the situation and he hoped he had the time.
He sat on his haunches in front of her and tried to hold her hand, but she pulled it away and began to hyperventilate.
“Princess… it’s me… don’t be scared. I am here for you. Nothing’s going to happen to you on my watch… I promised, remember?” He spoke softly, keeping his senses wide open to note any change in surroundings.
He felt her shudder and made his move to get closer to her. This time she didn’t resist as he pulled her closer to him. Instead, she readily went into his arms, and he hugged her tightly. He realized he needed the contact more than her. He was relieved that she still trusted him and vowed to get her to safety even if he had to risk his life. He rubbed her back till the shudder stopped. He knew they had to get out ASAP but this was important too.
“Sha…Shadow, I got that dream again… it was distorted again… I saw that man in the raincoat was running after me… I am so scared Shadow…” her grip around his torso tightened as she spoke into his chest.
“Princess…” he whispered, drawing her away unwillingly but not leaving contact. “…we have to leave this place. I think its compromised. I am not sure, but I can’t take chances.”
She stiffened, and he cured himself.
“Shadow, how did anyone find out about this place?”
“Fails me Princess… but we have to leave. Are you ready?” He asked gently, holding her face in her palms. He felt her nod, her tears shining in the limited nocturnal luminance.
Dawn would soon break, and they would be sitting ducks. He had to escape with her before that. She moved back to her position and straightened herself dusting her clothes, and he was in awe of her poise despite their situation. Then, pushing his feelings aside, he got into combat mode.
Unknown to her, he had seen the trap door. It had to be there since his father had built it and his old man never left loose ends. The man always planned backups. Shiv picked up his backpack he had kept ready for contingencies like this one.
He held out his hand, and in the darkness, he saw he stare at the window clutching her locket. The piece of jewelry she never parted with shone in the break of dawn and was the only luminant piece in the room. Then, it hit him like a thunderbolt… the locket.
It definitely had something to do with the evidence. Padma had mentioned the Queen gifting it to her on her sixteenth birthday… the day the woman met her maker. So the Princess kept it with her as a reminder of her mother.
Would she let him check it? Would she doubt his motives? He rubbed his face… now was not the time of the place to contemplate the matters of the heart.
He held out his hand before her and as she left her locket to place her hand in his, he saw the red dot… dancing on her face. And then a second one on her chest and third maneuvering its way on the wall towards him.
Oh Goodness… snipers… what the hell was that?
He dragged her unsuspecting body towards the floor even as shots were fired. The bullets chipped the plaster coating on the wall surface. Padma probably didn’t realize the gravity of the situation till then. She tightened the grip on his hand, and he knew she would be horrified given the sudden turn of events.
He dragged her further downstairs even as the frenzy of bullets ripped apart the walls. They barely made it out of the room in time and he pulled her towards his room even as he spied the stray red dot following them close… very close.
He moved the frame propped up against the wall with the same color that camouflaged its presence and hoped that he wasn’t too late. His foresight had helped and the latch he had loosened earlier worked to his advantage. He pushed Padma inside as soon as he opened the door and shut it after him latching it from inside.
The shots ricocheted off the door and they could hear the boom in the hollow chamber. He hadn’t seen this part earlier and had no clue where the chamber led to. It was crude and lined by unplastered walls. Stones were protruding as he observed with the light from his pentorch.
He looked around and saw a huge boulder. Moving the Princess to the side. He pushed the boulder with all his might and saw the Princess do the same. He overcame emotions… getting back to the operative mode he kept pushing. Finally, the boulder moved towards the door. That would give them more time, he fathomed. Holding Padma’s hand, he ran the distance, not knowing where they were headed.
He halted a little when he felt Padma tire. Placing the pentorch on a nearby stone, he helped her sit on a jutting boulder and offered her some water from the bottle he had packed. He chuckled as she gulped it all in one go, with some of it spilling down her throat. She didn’t know what it did to him. He looked away and inhaled deeply. She was the death of him!
He felt her pull his hand and looked down.
“Sha… Shadow… you are bleeding. Oh God did the bullet hit you?” Padma had horror written all over her face.
He then realised his hand was bleeding. He shuffled through his backpack and found a cotton cloth. When he took it out, Padma snatched it from him and tied it around his wrist. He knew the bullet had just grazed him but was touched to see her put an act that she was strong. She looked up at him, emotions shining in her eyes.
“…Shadow… why… why do you have to go to these lengths? You are no ordinary bodyguard…”
“And you are no ordinary woman, Princess. It’s a privilege to be at your service.” Shadow retorted.
The Princess began to sob and he pulled her close. It gave him a sense of reassurance that she was fine so far.
“It’s going to be OK, Princess….” He spoke softly.
Suddenly she moved away, still holding his hand. “Shadow, don’t ever let this happen.”
“Even if I am annoyed, don’t… don’t keep away. It was hell not talking to you. I thought you were annoyed with my antics….”
“…No, Princess….” he tried to tell her.
“…Do you know how it was with you going off and me waiting… at times, I wondered if you would be back….”
“…I would never leave you, Princess….” He didn’t know why he even said that.
“…I thought… Shadow… I thought…” She looked into his eyes even as her tears refused to cease. “…I thought something had happened…to you… I can’t imagine…”
He could hold it no longer as he slammed his lips. They devoured each other as if there was no tomorrow as if the future lay bleak, and these were their last moments on the planet. They were inseparable as their bodies were joined, as they gripped each other tightly… It was as if either of them were worried if the other would disappear if the hold got loose.
Shiv could hear their rapid breathing and the suckling sounds amalgamated, and then there were moans… he didn’t know where they emerged. The sounds were enhanced in the close confines of the never-ending chamber. He feasted on her soft lips, and their tongues competed as they clashed to outdo each other.
Padma pulled away suddenly. “Shadow… “ She looked into his eyes, breathing heavily through her swollen lips. “…Please take me…right here… right now…” Her hands gripped his lapels as if it was her favorite thing to do.
“But Princess…” there was nothing he wanted more than to remain sheathed inside her soft wetness, but she was a Princess for crying aloud.
“…No Buts Shadow… this life is so uncertain and I do not want to miss out on the only good. I don’t know if I shall survive this though I trust you over everything. So for once Shadow… please let me feel I am alive…” She pleaded.
Their clothes lay strewn on the floor in the next couple of minutes. Shiv wanted to take it slow so as not to hurt her, but he didn’t know if he could control his pace any more than his racing heart. He couldn’t provide her a soft backrest so he lifted her and she wrapped her legs around his torso. The rust shining in her gullible eyes did him in and he didn’t care about the rough wall digging into his upper back.
He stared into her eyes as he stormed inside her warmth and her tightness as she sheathed him made him lose control.
“I… won’t…. last…. long, Princess…” he whispered every stroke, and she gripped his mane. She bent and bit his ear, the soft tinge causing him to shatter.
She shuddered as she climaxed, and her walls milked him dry while he screamed her name…
They held each other close as they descended from the pinnacles of passion. He kissed her lightly all over her face, surprised at his tenderness. Since when had he become putty in her hands?
They dressed and began their sojourn. It was time Shiv decided… he had to tell her.
“It’s Shiv…” he spoke
“My name… it’s Shiv Ranjan…” he didn’t know why he left out his surname, but he couldn’t get himself to reveal it.
She squeezed his hand and smiled, melting away all his woes that instant.
“Shiv…” She whispered and he stopped walking. “..Shiv, I… I love you.” She smiled, and right then, he knew it would be impossible to stay away from her.