Chapter Forty Four
“There’s a delay,” Jake told her, eyeing her warily.
Aabirah swallowed her shriek. “What happened?” she asked, trying to stay calm.
“We’re breaking the law, princess. It’s not too regimented. One of the contacts I used has been arrested so I need to find someone else to create you a new identity. Without that, all your plans are useless.”
“How much longer will it be?” Aabirah asked.
“It depends on how fast I can find a forger,” Jake shook his head. “A few weeks, a few months… it depends.”
“Can’t you hurry it up?” Aabirah asked miserably.
Jake shook his head. “This is not the kind of thing you wanna take short cuts on.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Aabirah agreed reluctantly. “So you’ll let me know when something happens?”
“Yep,” Jake nodded, getting up and dusting off his pants. “See ya.”
He loped off, perfectly at ease. Aabirah stayed put, reluctant to go back up to the house. Daaem was there and with him came… complications.
Holly’s words replayed themselves in her mind and she huffed irritably. It was worth it to be obstinate. Wasn’t it?
She didn’t know any more. Maybe… maybe it would be easier to just give in. If she was going to be stuck in her cage for months yet, she might as well make it as comfortable as possible.
And… she was starting to like this strange, nice Daaem. He unnerved her but at the same time, it was nice. She’d never had a man be nice to her before. Not like this.
It was nice. Nicer than she cared to admit, even to herself.
Frustrated, Aabirah let herself fall back onto the grass, shutting her eyes and trying to quiet her mind. She was so tired of not knowing what to do…
“How are things going?” Ameer asked the second Daaem picked up the phone. “How’s Aabirah?”
“She’s okay,” Daaem answered, dodging the first question.
“And you? How are you feeling?”
“Not suicidal,” Daaem said drily.
“That’s not funny,” Ameer scolded.
“Really,” Daaem insisted. “I don’t feel suicidal today.”
“You’d best not, you little brat!”
“How are you really feeling?” his father asked seriously. “Are you… coping?”
Daaem blinked at the terminology. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m okay. I’m not going to do anything stupid again.”
It was nice to have his father’s attention to such an undivided extent, Daaem had to admit. But the old man’s worry made him cringe every time he heard it.
“Sorry,” he murmured, scuffing a shoe against the floor. “I – sorry.”
“Stop apologizing,” Ameer ordered.
“Daaem,” Ameer interrupted, exasperated.
“I feel bad!” Daaem snapped. “And I don’t know what else to say.”
“Far be it from me to stop you from feeling bad,” Ameer muttered. “But enough now. Don’t keep apologizing like that, it’s unnatural for you.”
“You used to tell me to apologize more,” Daaem pointed out mulishly.
“And now I’m telling you to do it less. Listen to your father, don’t argue.”
The familiar words still set Daaem’s teeth on edge and he blurted out a “No!” before he could stop himself.
Ameer laughed. “Now you sound more like yourself.”
“I really am sorry,” Daaem felt compelled to add. The anger he’d held towards Ameer for so many years seemed to have evaporated when he wasn’t looking and all he was left with was far too many memories of himself being obstinate, rude and deliberately cruel that filled him with so much shame he was left feeling an inch tall.
“You’re not the only one to blame, Daaem. Far from it.”
Daaem growled irritably.
“And… I am sorry. We lost a lot of time and you were the child. The blame lies on my own shoulders for isolating you. I should never have done that.”
“We all did things we shouldn’t have. Even Mom.”
There was a surprised silence and then Ameer sighed. “Yes,” he agreed simply.
“Daaem?” Aabirah blinked in surprise. “What are you doing here?” she asked curiously. She’d never seen him come into the library before.
“Looking for a book,” he held up the one in his hand. “You like to read?” He sounded odd.
“Yes. Very much.” Aabirah looked worriedly at him. “I can give you some privacy?” ‘Don’t tell me not to come back. Please don’t tell me this is private too.’
He shook his head. “No, you’re fine. I didn’t know you liked to read.”
“Well, you don’t really know much about me, do you?” Aabirah pointed out.
Daaem winced. “No, I don’t,” he admitted. “My mom liked to read,” he told her. “This library, it was her favourite place to relax. She was always in here.”
“Oh,” Aabirah whispered, suddenly contrite. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know…”
Daaem shook his head again. “It’s okay. It’s kind of nice that someone’s back in here, enjoying the books. I – it’s hard for me. To be in here. It’s… hard.”
‘Hug him,’ Aabirah didn’t move. He looked impossibly sad and the urge to comfort him welled within her. She wrestled it down. ‘No!’
He swallowed hard and blinked rapidly, clearly on the verge of tears.
‘No! Don’t fall for it. Just walk away!’ Aabirah knew she was making a mistake. She needed to go. She could find Holly and send the motherly housekeeper to comfort Daaem. She could call her father-in-law. She could do a thousand other things than what she was about to do.
Daaem cleared his throat. “Sorry,” he said huskily. “I didn’t mean to unload on you.”
‘That did it!’ Aabirah was walking forward before she knew it. She hugged him hard, the closeness emphasizing just how much bigger than her he was.
Daaem stood frozen, his arms still at his sides. Aabirah seemed to have shocked him.
“I’m really sorry,” she told him. “I’m sorry you lost your Mom.”
Daaem’s arms tightened around her. “Thank you,” he whispered hoarsely.
‘Aabirah Amal, you’re a fool. A soft, sentimental fool,’ she berated herself silently, even as she lay he head on Daaem’s shoulder.