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"This is absolutely amazing!" exclaimed Rachit as they drove along the nerve-tingling curves meandering through the wooded hillside.
It was Monday morning, and they were headed for the vineyard...
And as they left that evening, after tea, both gave Trishul a 'thumbs-up' while getting into the car, winking slyly when they were sure Rachit wasn't looking.
"They're fun, you are lucky," Rachit commented as they watched them drive away.
"Yes," agreed Trishul. "And what about you, any brothers, cousins?"
"Um, n... no," Rachit shook his head, turning away.
Sunday was quiet, just the two of them, spending time at the beach and sitting under the huge trees in the garden. And as they said their 'good-night' after dinner, Trishul suggested, "Well, since you're here, you should visit the vineyard and spend a few days... have a look around..."
Rachit looked up, silent for a moment before gracefully accepting the offer... neither of them mentioning anything about Rachit leaving, now that he was well and walking again.
"It must be a pleasure driving down such a road..." observed Rachit, looking down at the valley below.
"Well, yes, but only as long as you pay attention to what's ahead," grinned Trishul, carefully negotiating another sharp bend.
"This reminds me of the Pyrenees, um, the French side, during summer," Rachit smiled, looking at Trishul, "awesome drive, and some incredible trails!"
"You've been there?" asked Trishul, suddenly keen, "Hiking? In fact, I spent two weekends doing the GR9 once, you know, the grande randonnée Jura and Grande Traversee du Jura... the Jura trail in France."
"Um... er, no... I mean... um, I watched a programme on TV once, and it was um, beautiful..." Rachit replied between uncomfortable pauses, quickly looking away, once more watching the rolling vista.
"So, being close to the Himalayan foothills, you must have trekked there..." Trishul asked.
"Um, uh, yes, a bit..." Rachit murmured, still looking out, not bothering to elaborate, name any place or trek route.
"You know, I actually grew up in Dehradun, went to school there, and I'd spend my Saturdays, Sundays and holidays exploring those gorges and gullies in and around Dehradun and Mussoorie, never tiring of the Tons gorge in the cantonment area, with its Robber's Cave and the Tapkeshwar cave temple, especially during the dry season," Trishul said, turning briefly to look at Rachit, "scrambling up and down, snooping around every grotto, checking every crack in the rock, Dash my ever loyal companion..." Laughing as Dash, who had curled himself up in the back seat, lifted his head at the mention of his name and gave a snappy bark, as if agreeing with whatever Trishul had said.
"And each day," Trishul continued, "in the afternoon, we went to Sahasradhara, sitting on a rock and watching the rapids, crossing over to the other side and scrambling up the hillside to explore those numerous dripping caves and rock temples!"
But Rachit didn't seem to be listening any more, probably still too enamoured by the surrounding hills to care about what Trishul was saying...
"Have you been to Dehradun?" Trishul finally asked.
Rachit shook his head and once more Trishul sensed that reticence... a reluctance to talk about himself... avoid all questions even remotely personal...
'Damn Sanjeev!' he silently cursed, eyes back on the road, concentrating.
Fifty-two miles to the north-east of the sea-side farmhouse, the vineyard was spread over a thousand lush acres of the best available land.
Well protected from weather extremities by the westerly hills and with just the right soil type, the place was perfect for what Trishul had in mind; and he had finalised the deal almost immediately once he realised how close it was to his sea-side retreat...
Set in picturesque countryside with sweeping views from between the trellised vines on the hillside, the farm included a natural lake and the crumbling remnants of a rampart that once belonged to the long ruined citadel perched on a nearby hilltop. Trishul's private bungalow set atop the hillock behind the administrative block.
"This is where we grow our grapes, and make our wine," he announced as he swung the car through the gateway, "and this is where I live."
"This place is amazing," Rachit sighed as they sat perched on the high, ornate platform out on the upper terrace after dinner. The air clear and crisp, brilliant with a billion sparkling diamonds in the sky... the night totally silent.
"Stay here for a few days," suggested Trishul, "and while I'm at the office, you can go and see some incredibly beautiful spots nearby. I'll have someone drive you around, show you the sites. But yes, no hiking or trailing for you, not yet!"
"Since when have you become a doctor?" asked Rachit with an amused laugh, yet touched by the concern.
"I don't need to be a doctor, it's common sense," answered Trishul, "you shouldn't exert that foot, not yet. In fact, that citadel up there, the ruins are awesome, and with some spectacular view of the country, but its a gruelling trek up, and therefore I'm not suggesting that!"
They were silent for a moment, both contemplative, then Rachit turned to face him, whispering, "Thank you, Trishul."
The tone took Trishul by surprise, and as he turned to look at the man, his breath caught, his heart slamming wildly...
Something seemed to have suddenly changed... even the air feeling different, charged somehow... pulsating with a thermionic force. And as they stared... unblinking... they both moved, almost unconsciously leaning forward, heads tilting as lips parted...
It was a light brush of moist lips... hesitant at first... but as it sent the numbing jolt surging through their body, hands reached out, grabbing shoulders, pulling each other into their arms. The kiss exhilaratingly fierce now... Famished, like a starving castaway upon his rescue. Noisy, like a fast approaching, violent thunderstorm...
Both gasping in breathless exuberance as they nibbled and gnawed away... till Dash's persistent barking, his loud yowls finally forced Trishul to pull away.
"Well, Dash may be old, with short, stubby legs, and large, floppy ears," he laughed as he bend forward and picked up the crazed dog, "but he's fearless, and..." he paused, giving Dash an indulgent look, "he's a very jealous boy!"
Rachit laughed, watching the two cuddle, "How old is he?"
"Sixteen..." Trishul answered, giving the dog a loving squeeze.
"Wow," Rachit exclaimed in wonder, "and he's so very alert and active!"
"Yes," Trishul cooed, cuddling Dash, "he never fails to amaze his vet!"
"You love him..." Rachit observed.
"Yes, I do," Trishul said, kissing the dog, "and he actually likes you..."
"I too like him..." Rachit smiled, reaching out to scratch behind Dash's right ear. "How did he get his name? What does it mean?"
Trishul let out a laugh, "Well, I was eleven, and my grandmother got him for my birthday: 'A well trained dachshund for the best behaved boy!' she said. We kids were all super excited, and everyone had a name ready, but Grandma said since he was my dog, I'd get to choose the name. I thought up all the usual ones but didn't like any of those. My dog had to have a special name, something unique, not a run-of-the-mill dog name... and as I looked down at the certificate in my hand, looked at the breed column, 'DASH!' I exclaimed, and that's how he got his name!"
Rachit laughed, "That's actually cute..."
And as Trishul looked at him, they suddenly stopped smiling... once more overcome with that intense feeling of longing, leaning forward as they joined their mouth in renewed hunger... Dash immediately scrambling up, joining in as he butted his snout between the two faces, his tongue lapping away...
... to be continued
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