“I’m so glad you’ve decided to be co-operative.”
Adam scowled. “Death threats tend to make people compliant.”
Khan’s eyes flashed and he got to his feet. “Wait here,” Adam was instructed.
Adam had been alone for barely a minute when he heard the creak of a door. But there was something strange – it hadn’t come from behind him but rather to his left. Movement out of the corner of his eye told him where to look a split second before she entered.
At first glance, Adam thought he was looking at a child. She was tiny, with long blonde hair that was more commonly seen on the head of a toddler than that of a grown woman. The only clue to her actual age was the chest she was currently half-hiding with a stack of books.
She stopped short at the sight of him, her cheeks turning a pale pink. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t realize anyone was in here.” She gave him a curious once-over. “I don’t recognize you, are you new?”
“Very. I’ve never been here before.”
The girl’s eyes gleamed in recognition. “Oh, you’re the lunch meeting!”
Adam nodded. “That’s right.”
“What are you here for?” she asked curiously.
“The spoilt princess has demanded a new toy and I’m what her grandfather has decided to give her.” Even as he said it, Adam knew he was being unfair. For all he knew, Khan’s granddaughter was as unwilling a participant in this farce as he himself was.
“I see.” The girl clutched her books tighter to her chest.
“What do you do here?” Adam asked. Surely she wasn’t a mercenary too. They generally didn’t look adorable or dress in pastels and lug story books around.
“I play at being a princess,” she said in a voice sweet as syrup.
Adam’s eyes widened. This was Khan’s granddaughter? He thought of the big man with his tanned skin and brown eyes. They couldn’t look more different if they tried!
Then what he’d said came back to him and he cringed. “Uh…” he started. “Look, I didn’t mean…”
She held up a dainty hand. “Don’t worry about it. The opinions of toys don’t particularly faze me.”
Adam winced. He’d deserved that. Before he could try to apologize again, she’d left.
Was it even worth it to try and leave? He had no weapons on him and he was under no illusions about the fact that he’d just signed his own death warrant. No doubt the girl – Iman – was on her way to her grandfather right now, demanding his head.
He really should have just kept his mouth shut.
He’d called her a spoilt princess! This was the man her grandfather was sure she’d want to marry?
Iman was so distracted she almost walked straight into Ibrahim.
“Oh, there you are,” he said with a smile. “Come with me,” Ibrahim held out a hand. “You can meet Adam while he’s still here.”
Iman shook her head immediately. “I’ve already met him.”
“Oh, good.” Ibrahim led her to the window seat. “What did you think?”
Iman shrugged her shoulders as she sat. She’d thought he was gorgeous – until he opened his mouth. “He’s attractive. Actually, he’s prettier than I am.”
Ibrahim wrinkled his nose. “I’ve changed my mind, you can marry Waseem.”
Iman giggled. “Waseem changed my diapers,” she reminded her grandfather.
“Yes, exactly,” he agreed with a nod. “He’s like an uncle to you.”
“Don’t you want grandchildren?”
“Not for several more years,” Ibrahim said decisively. “Are you sure you don’t want to say anything more to Adam? The two of you could only have spoken for a few moments.”
Iman shook her head. “I’m sure.”
“Alright. Wait here, I’ll be back now.”
“What are you going to tell him?”
“That we’ll give him your decision when you’re ready.” Ibrahim said simply.
It seemed a bit unfair to make the man wait. But he had called her spoilt. Maybe it wasn’t so bad to make him sweat for a few days before letting him off the hook.
Two days later, Iman was glad that she hadn’t rejected Adam on the spot. The rude young man was looking better and better compared to the men her grandfather had been introducing her to. He’d been the only one who hadn’t talked directly to her chest, for God’s sake!
Iman sighed wearily, pulling off the stilettos she’d worn to give herself a little more height. “Who’s next?” she asked Waseem expectantly.
The portly man shook his head. “That was the last one. You really didn’t like any of them?”
“Not a one. Isn’t there anyone else?”
“No,” Waseem said sorrowfully. “You’ve rejected them all.”
“Not quite all,” Iman muttered, thinking of broad shoulders and dark hair.
Waseem frowned down at his clipboard in confusion. “Who… Ah, yes. Adam. You didn’t reject him. Was that an oversight?”
“No,” Iman’s cheeks burned. “It wasn’t.”
Waseem smiled brightly. “Wonderful! I’ll tell your grandfather you’ve made a decision.”
Iman’s eyes widened. “What?” she squeaked. “No I haven’t.”
“But I thought you hadn’t rejected this one?”
“I haven’t,” Iman agreed. “But that doesn’t mean I’ve accepted him!”
“Look,” she said. “There must be someone else. Just… check again.”
Waseem sighed. “Stubborn child,” he lamented, in a perfectly audible voice.
“I heard that,” Iman called after him.
“Good,” he replied over his shoulder. “Maybe it will help you see sense.”
Was she being nonsensical? Maybe. She only had a day left before she had to return to her mother’s home and returning a week late without any kind of progress was a terrible idea that guaranteed pain.
But… silly though it was, she’d hoped to find someone who was nice. Or even just civil. Was that really so much to ask?
Iman sighed. She still had one day left. If she hadn’t found someone else by midday tomorrow, she’d pick the only option she had left. But until then, she’d hold out hope for a miracle.
Surely she was due one by now?