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Joined: 14 March 2008
CHAPTER - 1
"Give it up already, Geet. You can't manage to defeat me in this!"
Geet Handa glanced jauntily at her opponent, her honey gold eyes alive with merriment as she contemplated the best way to prove him wrong. Circling slowly, she raised her sword, searching for the perfect opening for an attack. A moment later her sword clashed noisily against her opponent's, only sheer will preventing her from falling backwards as she dueled with a boy twice her size.
"I must say," the boy said derisively, his face inches from hers. "You females don't know when a cause is worthless. I begin to think my father is right when he says women are only good for domestic purposes."
Her eyes narrowed at that comment. Rather than answer it and expend more of the energy that was slowly draining from her shoulders, she lowered her sword in a wide arc, stepping out of the way. Sweat racing from her temples, she pushed her curls away from her face, swinging around.
It was a early in the afternoon and the summer sun was glaring down at the two duelists - one a girl in white masculine clothes with her hair in a thick plait down her back and the other a boy with dark curly hair, with a mocking expression on his good looking face.
"Ready to give up yet?" Neev jeered, his gaze flying towards their avid audience, their school friends and some villagers. Most of them wore identical expressions of amusement and in some cases - censure. "They don't look very impressed with your prowess either. In fact.." He grinned suddenly, his dark eyes noting a man pushing his way purposefully through the crowd. "I think someone else isn't going to be very pleased with you either. In fact, I begin to think you'll be in for it when you reach home."
Momentarily distracted by the sudden mocking satisfaction gleaming in the 14 years old boy's eyes, her gaze flew towards the crowd. Noting the varying degrees of glee on the faces of their friends, her eyes caught the stricken look on her best friend Prachi's face. Smiling reassuredly, she started to wave nonchalantly before her eyes widened in horror at the grim face of her father standing beside her friend.
Some of the villagers were already starting to nudge each other pointing towards the tall looming man in jet black in their midst, she noticed in consternation. No doubt her latest unacceptable conduct would serve enough fodder for the gossip mills for quite a long time to come. The last thing in the world she could have wanted was for an audience to watch this mock swordplay. It was too bad that news spread like wildfire in her small town of Saharanpur!
Too stunned to do anything other than to stand staring at her sire in dismay, her grip on her sword slackened until it was dangling by her side. Neev stole a look at her, and she met his eyes, ire shooting through her. When she had accepted his challenge a few days back, she had ensured that it was on a day her father was likely to be busy with his factory's work. The very last thing she had wanted was for him to see her clad in men's clothing having a mock duel with one of her best- though- highly- annoying- at- times- like- now- friend.
No doubt lady luck was busy using her charms on someone else today, she grumbled in her mind, looking at her father in mute appeal. It would be way too embarrassing to discontinue the duel now. Neev wouldn't ever let her forget this! And plus, she thought as she glanced at Prachi, he would never soften his attitude towards her. And therein lay her other problem - her best friend was hopelessly infatuated with the one boy who was totally immune to her loveliness!
Prachi was an attractive female a few years younger than Neev. She was sweet dispositioned, though an empty head at times. Her sole interest lay in finding a man who would sweep her off her feet, and for some reason, she believed Neev to be that person. From the time she had first laid eyes on him while strolling in the fields, she had developed a tendre for him that constantly persisted in making her seem more like a henwit in his presence than she actually was. She could barely string two words together when Neev was right in front of her, let alone bat those pretty eyelashes or use any of the feminine wiles she was born with on him!
The sole reason for this bizarre challenge was Neev's reluctance to take Prachi to the village fair next week. Prachi was pretty and sweet, but Neev was either totally impervious to her or else interested in more appealing things than his 'pretty little feather head', as he called her.
And Prachi was that, she thought sighing as she decided the best course would be to ignore her father's very daunting presence. Like most of the females of her class, her friend's mother preferred Prachi to help out at home and the fields rather than 'waste' time on bookish learning. And Prachi was totally content to idle away her time daydreaming in her spare hours - about Neev.
Raising her sword again, she snapped her eyes back to Neev, her brows rising in silent challenge. Responding to that with all the enthusiasm that was totally Neev, he dropped out of his laid-back pose.
Amidst reluctant cheering now that the villagers and children alike had had an edifying look at Geet's father, the two duelists began in earnest now. Geet's determination not to let her father see her lose, no matter what awaited her at home, lent her a new burst of energy. She began to skillfully sidestep the thrusts of Neev's sword, and outmaneuver his moves with some of the ones he had taught her during their mock tournaments last summer.
Perspiration dripping down their faces, they both circled the perimeter of their 'ring', each looking for an opportunity to gain the upper hand. Neev's face was furrowed in concentration now that Geet had finally managed to give him any degree of competition. Sparing a glance at her father, he guessed him accurately as the reason. The fiery young girl in front of him seemed to live each day of hers trying to make her father proud!
And proud he was! He ascertained as he sidestepped Geet's attack, stealing another look at the dynamic man trying his hardest to keep his expression dispassionate. 'The man seems to like all the things unseemly in his little girl!' he thought disgruntled. 'But you had to give him credit. He hid it very well in front of Geet. Goodness knows what more trouble she would have gotten into had she been openly supported by her sire!'
A narrow swipe to his midsection reminded him to focus on
the fight, or he would very likely be losing to the hoyden for the first time
in his life. Damn, she had improved!
Her movements quicker, her thrusts sure, her eyes watchful.. Apart from her
determination to prove her worth in front of her father, Neev knew that it was
also partly due to the times she had painstakingly tried to perfect her skill
with a sword. She had hoped that it would help to seal the breach that had
occurred between her mother's relatives in England, and her parents - by proving that she was as good as any boy.
Adding more fuel to the already blazing fire that had flared when Caroline Edwards, the daughter of one of the most illustrious businessmen in England, had married against his wishes - was the fact that the man she had chosen had sired a daughter instead of a son!
His sword clanged with hers again, each trying to exert the force that would topple the other over. Her amber eyes gleamed impishly, as she panted the words out, her face close to his. "Do you want to know what my father says, Neev?"
Warily noting the suspicious gleam in those expressive eyes of hers, Neev tried to deliberate over the cause of it. "No," he replied after a moment, sardonically. Amusement lifted the corners of her mouth at that reply. Damn, the chit had spirit! Unwilling to let her think he'd chickened out, he blurted out. "Well, yes!"
A kick to his groin made him double up the next instant, his sword forgotten in his hand. For several moments piercing pain blurred every other coherent thought, as he dropped to his knees, the noises around him merging into one. He gritted his teeth against the searing pain shooting through him, mentally resolving to murder the chit the very next time she was within his reach. Right now, in his present state of agony, the thought of strangling her was a highly appealing thought.
As the pain gradually receded, he slowly managed to open his eyes. The first thing he saw were a pair of bare feet jumping around in delight. His eyes took in the disgust on some people's faces as they witnessed him on the ground in front of girl who was not only half his size but strength as well! Others were gleefully cheering her, her father managing but not quite to hide his smile.
Self loathing raising his ire alongwith a wounded pride, he realized that Geet could not possibly have meant his "private region" to be the target. She was way too ignorant about such matters. She probably thought she had hit his stomach, he thought with rancor.
Raising his eyes slowly, past a delectable female form clad in his clothes, he saw a dark haired angel with golden fire in her eyes pointing a sword straight at his heart. Probably the sun is getting too much for me, he mused. Shaking his head to get rid off his fanciful notions, he met amber eyes filled with elation.
With a smile of sheer joy, Geet pushed the blunted tip of her sword till it jabbed his heart lightly. Increasing the pressure slowly, she made him bend over till he was almost stretched out on the ground. Then, readjusting the position of the sword such that the blades now rested against his neck, she dropped down to her knees to bend over him.
"He says," she spoke, triumph shining in her eyes. "That men are good for everything - as long as
a woman permits it."
Joined: 07 March 2008
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