Padma clutched her head as it throbbed even as the room swirled around her. She thought she would throw up. How could Shadow… Shiv do that? She thought they shared something exceptional. She was in love with him… so much that she missed him every minute.
His words, his confidence, his protective streak, his touch… every aspect had left a deep mark on her soul. But was this a flowery mark or a gangrenating wound? Time would tell.
Aarti moved and gripped her hand.
“Padma, I know this is hard. I can see that you are in love with him… its so obvious. But stop pining for him, Padma. You have a lot of responsibility here. Wait lets watch the news…” Aarti switched on the TV in her room. Padma never watched TV, it never interested her exceot for ocassional news.
“The violence in Koini and its neighboring areas intensified as the demand for the knowledge about the King got out of hand. The public wants to know what happened to their beloved King. There are rumors about him being murdered by the same elements who killed the beloved Queen and her bodyguard years ago in the ‘Shivgadh’ fort. The case remains unresolved to date….”
Padma gasped as the visuals of people pelting stones and torching vehicles played on the screen.
The anchor continued. “…there is also widespread discontent about the heir apparent. A faction of the public, including Maharashtra’s political bigwigs, are up in arms regarding Princess Padmavati ascending the throne, especially since she is unmarried. The other group supports the Princess irrespective of her marital status. It remains to be seen what the royal court decides since the throne can’t be vacant for long. The Princess was engaged to be married for a long time. Why did the marriage not materialise yet? Nonetheless, one can only wait and watch as the CRPF has been called to maintain law and order…”
Padma switched off the TV and sank back into the cushions against the headrest. She had let her guard down… just enjoyed a bit without a care in the world or the enforced etiquettes for a Princess. Shiv had her back. He had protected her from all harm and put his life on the line. He couldn’t be the bad guy, could he? Chauhan kaka spoke highly about his son… he was so proud of the young boy.
Her mother blindly trusted Chauhan kaka and performed his wife’s last rites, too, and that’s when when Padma first met Shiv. She couldn’t doubt her mother’s judgement, could she? Did her mother die because of trusting the wrong people?
Nothing made sense. Someone in her circle had tried to kill her at least thrice, and Shiv had stood in between her like and death.
“Padma, are you sure you didn’t tell that Shiv anything at all?” Aarti’s cautious tone brought her out of her thoughts.
Feeling the energy sap out of her body, Padma whispered, “Aarti, I have to sleep now. Please, can we do this another time?”
Aarti sighed and stood up.
“Fine, Padma. As you wish. I shall come tomorrow…alright? You should rest now.”
After Aarti left, Padma let her dams break and turned into her pillow as she let her emotions engulf her.
She didn’t know how long she had slept, but she had the same nightmare about her mother and woke up with a start.
Involuntarily she took her hand towards her neck to clutch the locket, but it wasn’t there. She recalled giving it to Shiv. She had given him everything… her trust, body, mind, and soul. Did he trample over all that and walk away? But why would he do that? Did he even love her? Or was she just a means to an end? Where he wanted to solve the murder case? Did her father know about Shiv?
There was a knock at her door, and Seema walked in with her dinner. She didn’t have an appetite, but she finished a few morcels on Seema’s insistence. She felt terrible for the young girl who had to face the attack because of her.
After Seema left, Padma laid back on her bed and stared at the broken door hinge that was once covering her balcony. It was the same one that Shiv had broken through to reach her when she had fallen almost dead. Of course, he had been injured but that didn’t deter him to save her life.
Tears streamed down unhindered as she gripped her blanket, dragging it close to her chin. How she missed her mother… How she missed Shiv…
A couple of days passed in the depressive stupor and no matter how much Seema or Aarti tried they couldn’t get her to speak or eat well. Finally, two days after she was back, Keshav visited her late in the evening. He had gone on a trip regarding the revenue meet and was finally back. He looked tremendously fatigued.
“Padma, why are you doing this?” he asked in a resigned voice
“Keshav….” She said, sniffling back tears. “…Keshav… I don’t understand anything. Why did Shadow do it? Why did he hide things from me?”
“Padma, it was all for your safety. He spoke with me before he left after dropping you back at the palace. He is not the villain here, Padma. If you are alive today, its because of him and you know that, right?”
“I don’t understand anything anymore, Keshav. He is Chauhan Kaka’s son… did you know that?”
“Yes.. he had told me on the day he took you away from here. I also know his name is Shiv.”
“Why didn’t he feel the need to hide that fact from me? I adored Chauhan kaka…”
“Padma, things have to be revealed only when the time is right and then there are things too painful to reveal. So you should give him time, Padma.”
“Keshav, Shiv was privy to all that happened in my life but I don’t know anything about him. I didn’t even know baba was no more… while I enjoyed…”
Padma wiped the never-ending flow of tears. But, the guilt refused to go away.
“Padma, I know how devastated you are. But your safety is of paramount importance from now on. The ordinance will soon come into effect and you will be crowned Queen. You don’t have to be married anymore. Your baba has done the needful….”
“But Keshav I have no idea how to run my life, let alone a kingdom….”
“We are all there to support you, Padma, it’s a legacy you have to carry forward. There is an all-important meeting regarding your nomination, and the Royal court is fighting tooth and nail to retain your legacy for you. So please, Padma, get it together, alright?”
“What about the perps… Aai, baba, Chaihan kaka… all of them. They are after me too and Seema was also caught in the crossfire. How long will this continue, Keshav?”
Exasperation was setting in, and Padma’s head reeled.
“Padma, it will be over very soon. Shiv had got some important breakthroughs. Don’t worry…”
“That means… he wasn’t here for revenge?” Padma felt like a fool for asking the question.
“What do you think, Padma? The best revenge for him would be to let you die. So why would he take huge risks to save you? And now he is slogging it out with his team to end this all… Padma, don’t worry. Just trust Shiv, alright?”
Padma nodded as Keshav patted her head and left the room.
She felt stupid for even doubting Shiv, given all that had transpired between them. But why did Aarti say so? Why did she hate Shiv so much?
Padma remembered Shiv asking her only to trust Keshav and Seema. But why didn’t he mention Aarti? He knew Aarti was Padma’s closest friend. Aarti had always been her confidante and was worried about her.
Padma rubbed her temples. Her head throbbed. She wished Shiv would talk to her… at least once. She thought she deserved at least that much. But, she promised herself… she wouldn’t ask him anything he wouldn’t want to tell her.
Her eyes welled up again, and she turned to face her mother’s portrait away from the balcony.
As the tears escaped the confines of her eyelids, she wondered if she would ever see Shiv again.
She didn’t want to be the Queen. She knew nothing about the politics involved, and she didn’t want to be a puppet at the hands of the royal court. She had received the threat about her crown. So would it stop if she declared she didn’t want to be the Queen?
She was lost in thought, with sleep eluding her till late.
She heard a creaking sound. Initially, she dismissed it, thinking it was a fragment of her imagination, but it came again. She sat up scared, the darkness in her room receiving the only little light from the tiny electrical bulb above her mother’s portrait.
Heart pacing, she lay still, trying to hear the noise again, her eyes glued to the balcony. And then she saw…a silhouette of a man trying to enter.
She didn’t need any light to know who it was.
Throwing her covers, she rushed towards the balcony. Shiv barely landed inside when she leaped into his waiting arms.
“Princess…” he whispered, holding her tightly against him as if she would disappear if he loosened his hold.
She dug her head in his chest and sobbed, grabbing his jacket at his back where she had circled her hands.
“Princess… it’s OK, Princess… all is fine… don’t cry…”
“Shiv… oh God … I missed you. I don’t want anything else in this world…. Can you take me away from here, Shiv?” She spoke, earnestly looking into his eyes but not loosening her hold.
He kissed her forehead.
“I wouldn’t like anything better, Princess, than you in my life. I… I… I have a duty to finish. I have promised the King and also my father. So I will be gone for a while…” Padma began to protest, but he shook his head. “…listen to me, Princess, I have to complete what my father and the honorable Queen had started years ago. But before that, I had to give you something…”
He moved apart and he took out a chain, In the flicker of the lighting in the darkroom she saw it was her locket…
“Oh Shiv, this is…”
“…Its your locket. I just repaired it Princess. I know its important to you and thought you should have it. Here you go”
Unhooking the chain, he drove it around her neck and hooked it back. His touch on her neck brought back memories from the safe house, and she bit her lower lip hard to keep it from trembling and shut her eyelids. He had ruined her for anyone else.
She felt his warm, rough finger pads trying to pry away her lip.
“Don’t, Princess… don’t do it. I am not worth your tears….” Did she hear his voice crack?
She opened her eyes and let the tears flow. He palmed her face as he stared into her eyes, and she leaned into his touch. She knew at that moment, she wouldn’t be able to live without him… She never thought she would develop feelings for someone so much. But her heart was no longer under her control as it paced for him…
“Shiv…” she whispered.
She thought he was getting indecisive, but in the next moment he slammed his mouth into hers. As they began to nip and such each other, she realized how much she missed him, wanted him… needed him. Their groans blended into each other even as he pulled her closer, grabbing her buttocks. Finally, she didn’t need any more push, and at his gentle nudge, she climbed on him, circling his torso with her legs, her hands around his neck as they didn’t bother to pause. She was giddy with pleasure and thought she would climax soon.
She felt him move, and the kiss ended as he dropped her on her bed. He pounced on her as she welcomed his taut body with her softness.
Within seconds her silky robe left her to gather on the floor while he stared at her balancing himself with his arms on either of his sides.
“You will be the death of me Princess…” he whispered and stared at her with an intensity she had never seen in him before.
She drove her hands over his bulged biceps and then cupped his cheeks… her favorite texture, his stubble, tempted her to the core. She held his neck and pulled his close, not wanting to be away even momentarily.
He kissed her face and nipped her neck, softly blowing warm air over where his teeth had just sunk in, igniting the beginnings of a climax in her belly. He moved lower and lower, kissing her body and leaving wet trails that felt cold in the gentle breeze blowing in through the open balcony. He further reached her sacred point, and she reflexly adducted her thighs, gasping.
He gently separated her thighs, kissed her inner thighs, and gave time to each side. He then blew over her entrance… Padma’s breath hitched as she felt wetness pooling at her apex… eyes shut, she grabbed the headrest above her arching her body like a stretching cat.
“Look at me… Princess…” Shiv’s breathy voice sent the waves cascading inside her body and she had already begun spasming.
She opened her eyes and saw him waiting at her entrance, looking at her. The flickering shadows on his face further aroused her. When had he discarded his clothes, she didn’t know; she was immersed in the throes of physical pleasure he had been inflicting on her.
Her eyes fell on his enormous manhood at full mast waiting to fill her and she licked her lips.
“Don’t…do… that…Princess…” he spoke in a hoarse voice and she was glad she did that to him.
“Shiv… don’t … delay anymore…” She pleaded, unsure of her own voice.
He didn’t need any more permission and he plunged inside her softness, filling her to the brim. She arched high up the bed and landed back. He began to slide in and out of her wetness; she needed only a few seconds before she climbed up to the peak of passion and exploded, seeing stars in its wake.
Before she could scale down he intensified the pace and finally she felt him erupt his warmth inside her womb before screaming her name and falling beside her. She had already consulted her doctor after arriving and she was in the clear. Though a bit disappointed, she was also relieved. She wasn’t in the right state of mind for any added responsibility.
Shiv gathered her satiated body in his arms and kissed her once again. They remained like that for a while, after which he got up and got dressed.
“Where… are you going Shiv…?” She was alarmed.
“Princess…” He moved towards her and cupped her face as she sat on the bed, suddenly conscious of her nakedness. “…I have a job to complete, remember? Let me go my dear… I …I… I have to go…” He looked away and rubbed his face.
What did he wasn’t to tell her? That he loved her?
“Did you see the …chip form the locket?” She asked.
“Yes Princess, but the information is highly classified and telling you would endanger you further and I wont take that chance.” He spoke as a matter of fact.
She looked away annoyed.
“Princess, please listen to me carefully. Do not trust anyone but Keshav. I will be in touch with him…”
“…But…” She interrupted. What the hell was that?
“…Please, Princess, listen to me just this once. And trust me… this is the last part… You have been so strong all these years. Just a while more. I promise you.” He spoke gently, and she had to blink back tears as she nodded.
Before she knew he kissed her and left the room the way he arrived.
A sense of doom descended on Padma. She felt… as if it was the last time she would see him.
No… she shuddered. No…God…please, no… Keep him safe. She prayed.