She’d walked straight up to Qasim, irritating Daaem to no end. And she was leaving with him? Fury burned in his veins at the thought.
‘What the Hell? Why do I care so much? She’s gorgeous, yeah, but…’
Daaem shook his head, trying to clear it. “See you,” he tossed at Qasim, purposely ignoring the girl. He didn’t know if he could stop himself from trying to flirt with her if he saw her face again and he didn’t poach. It was one of his rules.
Qasim grabbed him again and Daaem had to fight the urge to punch the infuriating man. Glaring, he yanked his arm back.
“Give me your number before you go, at least?” Qasim requested. “I’d like to catch up a bit, Daaem.”
Daaem hesitated for a moment. He was about to deny the request and use the crowd to disappear – he knew Qasim would try to nag him into changing his mind – but instead he found himself rattling off the series of digits that made up his personal cell phone number, one that less than ten people had access to.
An hour later, Daaem was cursing his impulsive decision. His cell phone had lit up five times in the past two minutes and it didn’t seem likely to stop any time soon.
Irritably, he reached for it and dropped it into his bedside drawer before grabbing a pillow to drag over his head.
He couldn’t silence it in case of an emergency and blocking Qasim’s stupid number made a ridiculous surge of guilt go through him. He cursed the man again, wondering what on Earth the idiot was even doing messaging him instead of devoting his attention to the woman he’d gone home with.
Daaem’s eyes widened as he realized what that must mean and a little smile stole its way over his face.
His expression abruptly soured as he remembered that the mystery woman wasn’t in his own bed either. Stupid Qasim.
Aabirah stood in front of the mirror removing her make up and listening to her brother’s excited chatter with half an ear.
“Did you hear me, Aabirah?” Qasim asked, lifting his head from where he lay on her bed.
“Yeah,” Aabirah called back automatically.
“Oh? What do you think?”
“Uh…” Aabirah stalled.
“Yes or no?” Qasim continued.
“Yes!” Aabirah picked randomly, praying that it was the right answer.
“Yes? Are you sure?”
“Yes!” Aabirah said confidently.
Qasim snorted and threw a grey throw pillow at her.
“Wanna know what I asked you?” he asked, hefting a second pillow and waving it threateningly at her.
“I know what you asked me!”
Qasim looked unimpressed.
“Okay, fine. Tell me?”
“I asked you,” he said amusedly, “if I should marry you off to Daaem.”
Aabirah spun around, her mouth open in shock. “What?” she squealed. “You idiot, Qasim!” She dropped her make up wipe and ran to pummel her brother, grabbing the pillow he’d thrown at her to batter him with.
They played for a few minutes before Qasim grabbed her around the waist and pulled her down to the bed with him. “Say sorry,” he demanded.
“No!” Aabirah struggled against the arms holding her, trying to pull away.
“Say it!” Qasim shouted, starting to tickle her.
“No,” she squealed. “Qasim, stop it!”
She put on her best pathetic expression and looked up at her brother. “Please stop?” she begged, looking as sad as she could.
“That’s not fair,” Qasim complained, letting go of her immediately. “That face is cheating.”
“Always works,” Aabirah crowed, bouncing up and returning to her mirror.
“Aabirah?” Qasim had gotten up and was looking at her seriously. “Did you like Daaem?”
“I don’t know.”
“Oh,” Qasim said softly, sitting back down.
“I don’t know,” Aabirah continued, “since I don’t know who Daaem is.” She turned around with a smile. “So who is he? One of the fifty different friends you’ve introduced me to this month?”
Qasim shook his head. “The guy I was with tonight.”
Aabirah’s eyes widened and her cheeks began to burn. “Oh,” she squeaked out.
“You did like him!”
Aabirah squeezed her eyes shut and tried to will her blush away. It stayed stubbornly in place. “He’s attractive,” she admitted quietly. “Anyone with eyes can see that.”
Qasim snorted and Aabirah abruptly lost her temper. “Why would you even ask me such a thing?” she demanded, feeling self-conscious and embarrassed. “You’re so holy and you always preach about ‘lowering your gaze’. So why even ask me about the hot guy?”
“I asked you about marrying him not about what you thought he looked like, Aabirah,” Qasim said irritably. “But clearly there’s something on your conscience that’s making you lash out at me.”
“I did nothing wrong!” Aabirah shouted. “Don’t try to make me feel guilty for no good reason! You know what, just get out!”
Now Qasim began to look regretful. “Wait,” he started, holding up his hands.
But Aabirah had had enough. “Get out!” she shrieked, striding to the door and wrenching it open. “Get out now, Qasim!”
Qasim’s lips pressed together tightly. “Fine,” he threw over his shoulder as he walked out. “Throw a tantrum, as usual.”
Aabirah suppressed a shriek and slammed the door. A moment later, she felt guilty but not enough to go after Qasim.
She sunk down on her bed and tried to ignore the urge to go after her brother and apologize. The truth was that she did feel bad. She felt bad whenever Qasim told her she was doing something wrong. But she hated being called on it. She’d been admonished for every little flaw as a child and, years later, she still hated being reminded of her faults.
She buried her face in her pillows and lied to herself. She hadn’t felt anything for Daaem. She’d been attracted to him but that was biological and meaningless. She hadn’t felt anything.
Reassured, she drifted off to sleep. But her mind was still uneasy.
Aabirah had been brought up to equate emotion with weakness. Qasim’s friend – Daaem – had gotten a reaction from her. She’d felt something when he looked at her and that was unacceptable.