“Mrs. Shaik? Mrs. Shaik, are you alright?” Anna stood patiently in the doorway, waiting.
It took Aabirah a moment to realize that she was the one being spoken to. She was Mrs. Shaik now, at least until her new husband tired of her.
“I’m fine,” she told the hovering maid. “Did you have something for me?”
“Mr. Shaik asked me to inform you that your flight would be leaving in a few hours. And he also requested that I start packing up your things…”
“Packing them up to go where?” Aabirah cut in. Had Daaem decided to ‘return’ her?
“The estate, ma’am. Mr. Shaik’s family estate? It’s where you’re flying to just now.”
“I see,” Aabirah said, disappointed but not surprised. It wouldn’t ever be that easy. “Well, I’d better start getting ready then.”
“Yes, ma’am. Will you and Mr. Shaik be eating together this morning?”
“No!” Aabirah said, horrified.
The maid stared at her.
Aabirah cleared her throat. “I mean… I don’t think I’ll have enough time. Thank you.”
“Yes, ma’am.” The maid tactfully began to point out the bathroom and ‘her’ cupboards. “If you need anything, I’ll be in here packing for you. Would you like me to pick out something for you to wear today or would you prefer to make your own selection?”
“Pick something for me,” Aabirah said absently, already dreaming about a long, hot shower.
“Thank you,” she tossed over her shoulder at Anna.
An hour later, she felt almost ready to tackle the day. She’d gotten to know Anna a little as she dressed and making conversation with the friendly little woman had done a lot to calm her nerves.
Too soon, it was time to leave. The thought of being alone with Daaem was daunting – no matter what he’d sarcastically assured her. But there was no way around it. She knew powerful men – none of them reacted well to obstinance. Her own father had no problems making her do as he said, it was pointless to hope a complete stranger would be kinder to her than he was.
She’d developed a distinct dislike of being sedated – it would be better if she just cooperated. In the end, Daaem would get his way no matter how she struggled. Her wedding had shown her that.
Frustrated tears welled in her eyes at her lack of power and Aabirah suppressed the urge to throw something. She’d spent her life being directed by others, she should be used to it by now.
She should be.
She’d have her whole life to get used to it now, Aabirah realized in despair. Even if she managed to get away from Daaem, there was nothing to stop her father from marrying her off to the next highest bidder. The law hadn’t worked. The press hadn’t worked. Money bought off everyone in the end.
“Mrs. Shaik? It’s time to leave. Did you need a minute?” Anna smiled at her.
Aabirah hesitated. “No, it’s alright.”
She checked her reflection in the mirror. Perfect. She looked vacant. Deliberately, she put a smile on her face.
Daaem watched as Aabirah walked down the stairs. As always, she looked gorgeous. That he had noticed it soured his mood even further. What was it about her that kept him looking? Objectively, she wasn’t the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Objectively, she wasn’t the most well-endowed. How the hell had she managed to hook him so thoroughly?
She wasn’t even dressed that well today, clad in jeans and a t-shirt for the flight. Still, it was hard for him to take his eyes off her.
With a growl, Daaem stalked off to the car. He was not going to let her catch him staring starry-eyed.
The flight was unbearable. Aabirah remained silent and stared straight ahead of her the entire time. She looked more like a doll than an actual person, impassive and unapproachable.
Daaem took to hiding behind a newspaper for something to do, in between cursing himself, Aabirah and his secretary for good measure for putting him in such an uncomfortable situation.
His father had been right. He was too impulsive, Daaem realized ruefully. And it was too late to fix things now. A seemingly hasty marriage could be explained away or spun as a whirlwind romance. A hasty divorce was almost impossible to spin.
It was gorgeous, Aabirah realized with a start. Lush green gardens and big open spaces made Daaem’s estate about as different to the city as it was possible to get. A part of her was sad that she’d only be there for a week. She’d never get to explore even a fraction of the place in that time.
Daaem leaned down, poking his head back into the car. “Are you planning to stay in here all night?”
Aabirah jumped. “No, I – no.” Hastily, she got out.
“Don’t worry, you’ll have more than enough time to admire it,” Daaem called back to her as she followed him into the foyer.
Aabirah frowned in confusion, waiting for him to clarify.
Daaem kept walking and she eventually hurried to catch up to him. “What do you mean? A week’s not nearly enough time to explore this place. It’s huge.”
“You’re staying,” Daaem said matter-of-factly, watching closely for a reaction. Would she care that she was being stranded in the countryside? He hoped she would.
But instead of the horror he’d expected, delight flickered over Aabirah’s face for a moment before she controlled it.
She really likes it here, Daaem realized sourly. It seemed that no matter what, Aabirah was getting exactly what she wanted.
How nice for her.
“For how long am I staying?” Aabirah asked.
“Forever. Or until you return my money,” Daaem added pointedly. “You can choose.”
“Forever it is,” Aabirah said, smiling pleasantly.
Daaem scowled. She was infuriating! And she had a pretty smile that he hated noticing.
“Stay out of the master bedroom,” he instructed her. “That’s mine and I want my privacy. If you need something, don’t tell me about it. Figure it out. Got it?”
Aabirah nodded. “Will I be seeing you this week?”
“Not if I can help it!” Daaem assured her. “I’ll keep out of your way if you keep out of mine.”
With that, he made his way up to his bedroom, leaving her in the foyer.
Daaem sighed irritably, leaning against the doorway. He hated this place and now he had to spend a week here avoiding a woman he despised. What a wonderful honeymoon!