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She walked towards Sanjivani's main entrance and waited for the arrival of her company for four long days. She had mentally run checked the possibilities of all available Senior Doctors and guessed him to be a very jubilant Dr. Arindham Mehra. She checked her wrist watch and sighed in relief. In a couple of minutes, a black Grand Cherokee Overland jeep stopped just couple of inches away from her. Enthusiastically, she reached for the passenger door to keep her luggage. However before she even reached for its handle, the window glass of driver's seat lowered down. And she heard very familiar devilish husky voice that stopped her dead in the track.
"I'm not your driver Dr. Nikita Malhotra. Sit in front." Abhi growled.
Nikki's heart began pounding loudly. She swallowed and leaned forward to make sure she wasn't wrong in her presumption. Yes the devil of her life was there… She swallowed again and her palms felt sweaty.
"If you are done with your staring, sit in the car. We are getting late." He turned his face and his killer intense gaze gleamed in sunlight.
Nikki shivered under his scrutinized gaze and her voice cracked, " Y…you.. Umm I was told that a senior doctor will accompany me. What are you doing here?"
Abhi's lips twitched into a reluctant smile, "You know Dr. Nikita Malhotra, that was indeed a lame question.. First of all I'm a senior Doctor of Sanjivani, secondly, you are going for a medical camp and not for some outing. So you shouldn't bother about your company. Thirdly, why are you shivering and sweating? Are you afraid of me?" Abhi finished with a crooked smile.
Nikki looked at him openmouthed. Her jaw clenched as her mind registered his last three words. She threw her back pack in the back seat and strode towards the other side of car. She settled inside the car and struggled with seat belt.
"Afraid of you?" She mocked a smile. "Huh.. in your dreams, Dr. Modi." She pulled seat belt with a brutal force.
"That would be a nightmare for me and not a dream. And I never see such a nightmare Dr. Nikita." Abhi started engine and drove the jeep towards their destination.
Nikki felt her temper rising by each passing minutes, yet she ignored retorting back for a while. She knew that she needed to conserve her energy if she wanted to survive in these four days. Abhi drove the car in a complete silence and Nikki's mind begun planning and plotting the strategies for the next three days.
The journey was long and the company was boring.. He wasn't much talker.. And the words 'sit quiet' were alien to her. Out of a habit, she kept bugging him frequently on any nonsense topic, tried testing his tolerance power.. On the other side Abhi tried his level best to not to give a damn to her bugging… to be patient and calm towards her nonsense attitude…keep his strength intact as he'll need it in these four very long days..
It was almost past eight when they reached to their destination. The village was very small and villagers were quite welcoming. After a formal introduction with a sarpanch and the members of village panchayat, Abhi and Nikki had dinner at Sarpanch's house. The clock showed past nine and Abhi decided to call it at night.
Abhi and Nikki entered into a small adjoining room where one of the villagers had dropped them just a couple of minutes back.
"Where are you going to stay?" Nikki asked as a matter of fact.
Abhi gave her a fortifying look. "Dr. Nikita Malhotra, this is small village and not a five star hotel."
"What?" Nikki looked at him in disbelief "What?" She asked again. "I... I'm not going to share a room with YOU." She spoke horrified.
Abhi narrowed his gaze and shook his head in annoyance. "You are not sharing A ROOM with ME, Dr. Nikita." He spoke sarcastically. "That's your room and this one is mine." He snapped a finger at the other side of room and started unpacking his luggage.
"I'm not going to stay with you under the same roof. And that's final." Nikki spoke adamantly, her finger curled around her backpack.
Abhi's brows snapped into scowl as he turned his attention back to Nikki. "That's the exit door." He snapped a finger at the exit door. "And before you leave, let me make something clear to you. You had volunteered for the camp; no one had forced you for it. Stay or leave. That's completely your choice." Abhi's eyes challenged her. She gazed into those challenging chocolate brown eyes and she knew that he wasn't giving her a choice… instead he was challenging her… She couldn't back off now..
"You know what. You are impossibly insufferable rude man; I've ever come across in my life." She glared back.
"Ditto." Abhi muttered, locking his fierce eyes with hers.
Nikki put her hands on her hips. The gesture made it clear that she was ready for the battle. Abhi shook his head and blew an air.
"Look Nikki..ta, I'm tired and I don't have strength for this senseless argument. Its almost night and I crave for some rest. Beside we.. I have a long day tomorrow. So if you please excuse me, I need to unpack." He finished sternly.
Nikki swallowed her anger and rubbed her aching temple. She scrutinized her surrounding for one more time. It wasn't that bad.. And she can lock the door from inside. Sighing, she picked up her back pack and strode towards another room, grumbling and muttering something inaudible under her breath.. And disappeared..
Abhi's lips twitched into a triumph smile. It's just a beginning Dr. Nikita.. His smile widened into a grin.
Nikki tossed and turned restlessly in bed, swatting mosquitoes on her arms. She sat up on bed and cursed mosquitoes for keeping her awake. She wondered what Abhimanyu was doing at this hours of night? Was he too awake like her? She smiled for a moment. Omg! Why did she care whether that sadu was awake or slept? Frustrated with the direction of her thoughts, she shook her head and scowled Abhimanyu for peeping in her thoughts. Sighing, she got up from the bed. To her utter horror, all of sudden the lights of the room flickered and within a second the room turned into dark black. She staged back in fear as the dark blackness crept over her. She searched for her cell but didn't find it in the dark. Now what? She panicked.
She needed a flash light or a torch or a candle before she dies out of fear. She panicked at that thought. She took cautious steps towards the door muttering 'Hanuman Chalisa' under her breath. As she reached near the door, she stopped for a moment.. What if Abhi was awake? Wasn't that risky to step into lion's den in the dark? She stepped backward.. Oh com'on Nikki, there's no need to be afraid of Abhi. Don't you remember his kind gesture when you'd gotten high on bhang.. The way he'd taken care of you, dropped you safely at home.. Her heart defended him. Straightening her shoulders, she took a deep breath and made her way out from the room. Her heart started pounding loudly as she tip toed out from her room. Abhi's room was plunged into total darkness. For a moment she felt herself take a step backward. She tried hard to peer in to darkness, but she couldn't see even her hands in front of her face. There's no need to get scared or nervous Nikki. Her voice echoed out of depth of her mind. Tentative, she strode forward blindly and her hands hit to the frame of a wooden cupboard. Her heart jumped in exhilaration at the thought that she had found her destination through the darkness. She thanked God and her hands reached for the door knob. Even before she took her next breath, the powerful arms covered her mouth and waist from behind. Momentarily shock swept through her, her mind went blank and she felt too off balance to protest. Somehow that touch felt vaguely familiar to her. Absentmindedly she moved her free arm and elbowed him in the belly.
Abhi wasn't prepared for such a blow and his hold on her loosened. He winced in pain and Nikki recognized the sound. At the same moment the dim night lamp flickered on and Nikki swirled abruptly in his arm. Her abrupt move made Abhi off balance and he stumbled taking unsteady steps backward. Finally he fell on to the bed taking her with him. As back of his head hit to the headboard of the bed, momentarily dizziness swept through him. Nikki landed safely on his chest and he groaned in pain again "Ughh.. It hurts". When the dizziness gone away, he looked up and his gaze met by Nikki's huge black eyes. A low grasp erupted from her lips as she stared back into those chocolate brown eyes. Neither of them moved for a moment and kept gazing each other as something came over them. Nikki found her face just breath away from Abhi's face. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply letting his warm breath fill her lungs. On the other side, Abhi felt his lungs grew tight and his heart began to pound wildly. The smell of her perfume momentarily drowned him and his chest felt fluttery. He swallowed hard but his throat felt dry. Then, as quickly as it came, the feeling passed. His mind registered the reality and he shook his head to clear those disturbing thoughts. He recovered fast and muttered an oath in a low howl kind of voice.
"Would you care to get off from me? I need to check how many bones I've broken?" Abhi bellowed with gritted teeth.
Nikki startled at his booming voice and snapped open her eyes. She stared mortified as a cold shiver ran down her back where Abhi's hands were landed. Color started creeping on her cheeks and she forced herself on her feet. For a moment her legs felt heavy and somehow she turned and hurriedly switched on the lights. When she turned back again she found Abhi massaging his nape and back of head, "Oh gosh! it hurts."
Nikki swallowed again. " I… I 'm sorry." She muttered apology.
Abhi gave her ironic hard stare and yelled," Save it. First tell me what the hell you were doing in my room at the middle of night?"
She wilted under his gaze but her voice remained quite steady when she spoke, " I said I'm sorry. I was searching for a torch when you attacked on me as if I was a burglar."
Abhi massaged his temple this time and uttered forcefully," Are you crazy? Why you needed a torch at these hours of night."
"Because there was a power failure and I've got this phobia of dark and..." The words were already out of her mouth. She bit her tongue for blurting about her phobia in front of another soul on the earth. It was her top secret. She wondered why she wasn't able to hide her secrets in front of him.. First Armaan and now her phobia of dark.. A sigh escaped from her mouth.
She shot venomous look at Abhi and found him watching her with his luminous gaze. The gaze that made her breath hitched. Her eyes followed movement of his hand that was rubbing back of his head.
"Is it paining badly?" She asked, her expression tight with concern.
Abhi's eyebrows snapped together at her tone. He studied her for a moment. Her gaze held little warmth and that unnerved him. He wondered whether she really cared for him. He opened his mouth but failed to voice what he wanted to say. Instead he found himself blurting," Why do you care, Nikki..ta? I know it's hard for you to believe that I'm a human being. But yes it hurts and pains." He finished sarcastically. He didn't need her care. The fact was he never needed anyone's care.. That word makes a man weak.. And he didn't fall in that category.
Her gaze locked onto him and she made an attempt to read what was going in his mind. After a while she started to reply but a knock on the door startled her. Abhi stole an anxious glance at his wrist watch.
"Dr. Sahib, please open the door… there's an emergency." Some one called out in a panic. Abhi checked his watch and startled to see it was past 2. Without wasting another minute, Abhi strode towards the door and opened it.
"Sahib my Nandini is in a labor pain… Our local Doctor is not in town…Please save her..." Hari, the villager, spoke with a quivering voice.
Abhi shook his head in affirmation and spoke hurriedly, "Stay right here. I'll be back in a minutes."
He turned and found Nikki eying him as if he was insane.
"What? Go and get our medical backpack" Abhi asked coarsely, wrinkle appeared on his forehead.
"I'm not a Gynecologist." She muttered crossing her hands over her chest.
"Neither I am. But we are doctors and ..." He snapped back and stopped abruptly. He noticed the sarcastic smile playing on her lips and his jaw hardened. He knew exactly what was running in her mind. His temper flared. , his expression tight, his voice cold and clipped when he spoke, "I know you doubt about my capabilities as a Doctor. So let me make it clear to you that I don't have to prove anything to you." He snapped a finger at her. "Besides I least care about what you think of me. At present what matters to me is someone needs my attention and I'll do whatever in my hand to save her."
His challenging words incensed her and her heart hammered with anger. "Oh really Dr. Modi? Fine. In that case I wouldn't like to miss this only opportunity to see 'a doctor like you' in action." She scowled back.
Abhi's eyes glittered with anger as he accepted her challenge. But he didn't know destiny had decided something amusing for him.
Fifteen minutes late, Abhi found himself stood frozen in his place. Nervously, he stared from Nandini to Hari and lastly to Nikki. There was a mischievous spark in her eyes and a smugly smile hovering about her lips. He felt his anger freshen. He turned his attention back to Hari, "Listen Hari, I can't handle this delivery. I.. I'm not a Doctor who deals with animals. I know nothing about such delivery." Abhi spoke genuinely.
"Sahib, but you are a doctor. Sahib, please save my Nandini. I beg you. My family's life depends on Nandini. Please save her Dr. Sahib."
"I remember someone saying just few minutes back something like.."I'll do whatever in my hand to save Nandini." What happened to that statement Dr. Modi? "Nikki finished sarcastically.
Abhi shot an ironic glance at her. "Unlike you Dr. Niita, Nandini is not a joke to me. I don't want to risk her life to prove something to you. As I said earlier your opinion on me hardly matters to me." Abhi snapped back in an even tone. . At that moment proving his ability was the last thing on his mind.
Hari looked puzzled from Abhi to Nikki and back to Abhi," Sahib I trust you. Please do something. Please save her." He finished hopefully.
"I…umm.. I.." Abhi opened her mouth to protest but Hari's miserable expression and howling of Nandini failed his voice.. He knew he was trapped.. He looked at Nandini who was lying on the dust and was moaning and groaning in pain. His heart went for grunting animal.. She looked helpless and miserable.. There is nothing to be scared of Abhi.. You can do it.. So what Nandini is a cow? How hard it could be?? He'd witnessed a similar kind of situation few years back.. So what he didn't have practical experience in that regard.. He could atleast try.. His voice echoed inside..
Swallowing hard, Abhi walked towards Nandini and knelt down beside her. He stroked her head and skin. She grunted low and looked at him with her misty eyes. Abhi's heart went for Nandini and he soothed her skin again. "Don't worry, you'll be alright.. Trust me." Abhi whispered and Nandini blinked her eyes as if she acknowledged his statement.
To Abhi's utter surprise, he saw Nikki sat beside Nandini. She looked at him and then at cow and started stroking her head.
"Are you sure you can do this?" She asked Abhi in a low voice, her eyes were fixed on Nandini. ABhi noticed flicker of doubts on her face.
"Yes. I think can." Abhi sighed He checked Nandini's belly that was as hard as rock and the cow grunted again. Nikki soothed her head talking to her in her soft silky voice. The cow picked her head as if trying to understand what these people were doing with her. Abhi looked at Nikki and found her smiling at Nandini. His heart did similar kind of fluttering watching her smile. Instantly, he shook his head to clear his mind. He needed to concentrate on the task at hand. He bent his head and proceeded with his task. Though he was still under therapy for his shoulder injury, he was least cared about that at present.
On the other side, Nikki's attention stayed on Abhi's hand on Nandini. They seemed like the hands of a surgeon. His ability surprised her. He was doing exactly what a doctor was supposed to do. She remembered all her taunting to him in the past few days. "Dr. Nikita what you see is not always true.." He had said that to her once.. Instantly, she felt ashamed of her words in her mind. For a moment her heart filled with admiration and love for the person sitting before her eyes. Love? She wondered as from where that word came from? Her heart thumped unsteadily and she chewed her inner lips to stifle a blush..
Abhi glanced up in her direction as if he'd heard her thoughts. For a moment his concentration fierce and he shook his head.
"Hun? Umm d..id you say something?" Nikki stammered while tucking her hair behind her ear.
Abhi shook his head again and spoke gently, "You are doing good. Continue with your task."
"Hun?" Nikki looked at him puzzled. Abhi snapped a finger at her hand that was stroking the cow's head. She sighed, "Oh!"
"I guess it's helping her to understand that she'll be fine. Her grunting has been slowed down." Abhi smiled though there was a flicker of worry in his eyes. He took a steady breath and turned back his attention on the cow.
"I know that's painful Nandini. But you are in safe hands. Soon you'll get your baby, oky?" Nikki whispered soothingly near cow's ear.
Abhi's ears shot up at her whispering and his lips curved in an amusing smile. He again chided her mind and focused on Nandini. After almost ten minutes Nandini picked up her head groaned hard this time and her eyes flickered with pain. Abhi shot some quick instruction to Nikki and dutifully she followed it.
After a while, Abhi felt a sudden wave of anxiety as he saw calf's feet were already out and he understood that the baby was ready to come out. He informed Nikki to step away. Nikki patted her head for the last time and stepped away. Abhi kept on speaking soft words to the mourning animal. Nandini grunted mournfully and pushed the rest of it out. Nikki heard squishy sound of Nandini and saw a calf slide in Abhi's arms.
Abhi sighed in relief and took long and deep breaths. That was the most difficult and challenging task of his life. The baby calf moved in his hands and he smiled with pleasure at him. Nikki looked at him mesmerized as her heart fluttered with excitement.
Nandini made few feeble attempts and then got to knees. She started licking her baby that made Abhi samile. "Hey chill man, you are scaring me." Abhi teased her.
Hari stepped forward happily and Abhi handed the calf in his arms. Nandini grunted in displeasure. Hari patted cow's head, a silent gestured that he'll bring her baby to her in five minutes.
Abhi rose to his feet and stood rigid for several moments, trying to process what had just happened. He closed his eyes and let out the air out from his lungs entirely. The image of nasty accident, shoulder injury, his helplessness rushed through his mind. He'd loved and still loves his profession more than anything in his life. Though his shoulder injury had shredded him completely, he'd done his level best to get a grip of his professional life. And today after a long time he felt a sensation that he'd thought he would never feel. Sensation of being alive.. being complete. He opened his eyes and looked at his trembling palms. This delivery was a kind of miracle for him. He slowly cleaned his hands with a clean towel. Suddenly he felt a similar gaze on his face and he looked up. He found Nikki stood a couple of steps away from him. He expected her to look surprise but she looked impressed and ecstatic.
Nikki noticed strains of blood on his clothes and his face looked exhausted. But there was an undeniable triumph in his eyes. Nikki's looked at him in admiration. At that moment she had a mad urge to throw her arms around him and gave him a hard hug. What Abhi did before her eyes seemed like miracle to her..
Abhi glanced up again in her direction and found her staring him intensively. Abhi cleared his throat. "Phewww that was unbelievable." Abhi breathed. His eyes were warm, his grin was appreciative and he made no attempt to mask his excitement.
"Uhu.. That was incredible." Nikki spoke softly. You are incredible Dr. Abhimanyu Modi. She wanted to add. "I'll never forget this day in my life." Nikki spoke tenderly.
"Neither me!" Abhi met her gaze and sighed.
At that moment, Nikki was sure about that there was nice, sensitive, kind, caring, emotional and thoughtful person behind the faade of a stone hearted Dr. Abhimanyu Modi. She made up her mind to find out the real Abhimanyu Modi in these three days. Her eyes twinkled in excitement and she smiled at him softly.
Somehow Abhi felt as if he knew exactly what was going in her mind and the reason behind such smile. .I'm counting on it Nikki... Abhi shot her a charming smile.
"Did you say something?" Nikki asked softly.
"I guess you heard me." Abhi spoke huskily.
They held each others gaze for a moment.. Three days and counting..
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