“You look like a hobo.” Adam wrinkled his nose and waved away the cloud of cigarette smoke. In a suit that cost more than some families lived on in a year, there was as much difference between Ali and a hobo as there was between a private jet and a skateboard, but the comment still made the corner of his mouth twitch.
“It’s times like this when I remember fondly the days when men could drown annoying little brats.”
“I’m a good swimmer.”
“That’s what the cement is for.” Ali dropped his cigarette to the floor. “Did you need something or are you just here to remind me how very annoying you are?”
“You’re needed inside. Mom sent me to get you.”
Ali straightened up. “Needed for what? Is she alright?”
Adam levelled his stepfather with an unimpressed look. “Do you think I would have left if she wasn’t? She wants to introduce you. She’s… with Iman.”
Ali groaned. “You cannot be serious. You left your mother with the woman who bought you? Willingly? Where is your head, boy?”
Adam bristled. “I didn’t exactly have any other options. What was I supposed to tell her? ‘Sorry, Mom, I can’t leave you alone with your new daughter in law because she’s a little snake?’ She has no idea what’s going on here, remember?”
Ali put a hand to his temples. “I should never have agreed to come today.”
“Why did you, anyway?”
Ali pursed his lips. “It is your wedding day.”
“You’re being sentimental?” It was entirely out of character and Adam cast a worried look at his stepfather out of the corner of his eye. “Did you get hit in the head or something?”
“Very funy,” Ali said drily. “Joking about head trauma, how original.”
Adam couldn’t let it go. “Seriously, why do you care?”
“Because I care about you. Despite what you seem to think.” With that, Ali stalked back inside, leaving Adam to stand in the cold and gape at his retreating back.
What had that been?
Iman had been feeling less and less confident about her choices as the day went on. Now, in a car with a man who clearly did not like her, it was difficult to remember the very good reasons she’d had for the choices she’d made.
The reality of the situation was beginning to sink in. She’d married a virtual stranger. And yes, if he hurt her, he’d be dead in short order.
But it wouldn’t do her much good if she were lying in a ditch somewhere by the time anyone caught up to him.
Iman peeked at Adam out of the corner of her eye and couldn’t suppress a slight shudder. He was so big! She hadn’t realized it properly before. Of course, she’d known he was large. But it hadn’t truly sunk in until today when he’d put his arms around her.
The folded knife Shaida had slipped inside her sleeve, with a whispered ‘just in case’ lay heavy against her arm and she scowled resentfully at the feel of it. It was a slim thing – it had had to be to fit under the sleeve of her gown – and was the cause of her current unease.
She’d been happily oblivious to the fact that Adam was more than capable of killing her, that he’d made a career out of killing people far more dangerous than she could ever be, but the shock of cold steel against her skin had been an abrupt reminder that she wasn’t home safe. She still needed to watch herself.
A throat cleared itself pointedly and Iman started at the unexpected noise. She looked around for the source of it and found Adam leaning into the car with an irritated look on his face. Iman hadn’t even noticed the car stop.
“We’re here,” he snapped unnecessarily. “Are you planning to get out or should I bring you a pillow to sleep with?”
Iman got out of the car so quickly she tripped on the hem of her gown. There was an unpleasant ripping noise and she winced. Looking around, she quickly forgot the dress. “Where are we?”
Adam looked at her like she was an idiot. “The parking garage.”
“You live in an apartment?”
Adam nodded impatiently. “Looks like it.”
“But… isn’t that hard to secure?” Looking around at the number of cars, it was obvious that dozens of people came in and out each day.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be safe.”
Iman bristled at the patronizing tone and bit down a retort. “Could you open up the back?” she said instead, waiting until the car let out a happy beep to lift the lid. She reached in to pull out her bags and was just grabbing the handle of the first one when a much bigger hand closed over her own.
“I’ve got it,” Adam told her brusquely.
Iman backed away hesitantly. “I can do it.”
Adam eyed her disbelievingly. “Good for you. I’ve got it.” He lifted both bags out easily.
Iman trailed after Adam silently all the way up to his front door and inside the apartment. Once there, he dropped her bags in a sparsely decorated bedroom with a thump and headed out the door without another word to her.
In the silence, Iman had nothing to distract her when her shoulders began to throb. Her gown’s heavy skirts have been biting into them all day and Iman is more than ready to yank the entire mess of tulle and silk above her head and throw it in a corner.
There was just one slight problem. She can’t unzip it. The gown was made tight enough that trying to get her arms behind her was a struggle that she’s fairly certain would end in ripped seams.
Iman struggled in vain for a good few minutes before finally admitting defeat. She needed help.
Finding Adam was easy enough. It only took a few moments of wandering and poking her head into doorways before she found him sprawled on a couch.
“I need your help,” she said, not looking at him.
He straightened up immediately. “What’s wrong?”
“I – I can’t reach my zip.”
“My zip. The gown is too tight for me to reach it.”
Adam looked blankly at her.
“I need you to unzip me.”
He got to his feet and came up behind her, dragging the zip down slowly
Iman reached back to stop him the moment the gown loosened enough for her to move. “Thanks, I should be able to get it the rest of the way.”
There was a thunk and they both looked down. The velcro strap on knife she’d been wearing had somehow come loose.
Adam picked it up and held it out to her. “I didn’t take you for the type to use knives,” he commented. “It’s cute. Not particularly useful, but cute.”
Iman took it. “Thanks for the help,” she mumbled, and fled. If he said anything in reply, she didn’t hear it.
Back in the bedroom, with the door firmly closed behind her, she cursed her gown, its zip and velcro in general before firmly putting the entire incident out of her head.
Maaf for no Friday chapter but, trust me, it was for the best. No one wants to read what my mind comes up with when I’m sick and drugged. Here’s a long chapter to, hopefully, make up.