Fiction: The Art of Mutual Destruction Chapter Twenty Four

Chapter Twenty Four

What a delicate little flower,” Kat commented as they watched Lina lead Iman away. “I’m gonna go before all of this makes me sick to my stomach. I’m sure your mother wouldn’t want me puking on her tiles.”

Adam made to follow her. He’d barely gotten halfway out of his seat when a hand closed around his shoulder and pulled him back. “Let her go,” Ali advised him. “She’s not in any mood to talk right now.”

He was right. When Kat ran off, she did it because she wanted to be isolated. He’d made the mistake of following her before and all he’d gotten for it was a non-verbal grunt and then, after he’d irritated her enough by his constant questions, a knife thrown at his head.

He still had a tiny scar on his cheek.

I’m leaving tonight,” he grumbled. “If she holes up now, I won’t see her until I get back.”

She knows you’re leaving, she’s the one who booked you a flight,” Ali countered. “Bugging her now will make things worse. You know this as well as I do.”

He frowned at Adam. “Why are you being so erratic? First you were late and now you’re being overbearing. Are you deliberately trying to push everyone’s buttons today?”

Adam’s eyes went involuntarily to Iman’s empty seat.

Ali made a sound of comprehension. “I see. Speaking of your wife, why did she keep eyeing me like I was a demon?”

She did?” Adam hadn’t been paying much attention to Iman, distracted as he’d been by his mother.

Yes, it was quite unnerving, actually.”

Adam thought for a moment. There was only one real explanation. “I told her that you shoot at me.”

You deserve it!”

Adam was treated to a narrow-eyed look. “You seem to be getting strangely fond of that new wife of yours.”

She’s not as bad as I thought she’d be.”

Be careful not to get too fond of her,” Ali advised. “A sentimental mercenary is a bad joke and a worse security risk.”

You love my mother,” Adam pointed out, his cheeks burning.

I am the boss. Do you know what that means?”

You get to be a giant hypocrite?”

Oh, you do know!” Ali smiled, pleased. “That’s right. I get to do exactly as I please because I am the one who makes the rules.” He leaned over and squeezed Adam’s jaw, laughing when the action earned him a sour look and a glare. “You’ll get your turn.”

Yeah, right. Adam snorted. Chances were high he’d be cold in the ground before Ali Cassim even began to falter. He said as much making his stepfather shake his head.

You underestimate yourself and overestimate me. You will be in charge one day. Although,” he allowed, “it will likely be several decades in the future.”

Adam’s mother found them laughing minutes later.

Her hands went automatically to her hips at the sight of them and the look she levelled at Adam sobered him instantly.

You’re wife is ill and you’re sitting here cracking jokes? Is this how I raised you?” Lina shook her head. “Go and be a good husband. Find out what’s wrong and comfort her.” she ordered, pointing her hand in the direction of the door.

Adam had a fleeting moment of panic. How was he supposed to do that? Iman was almost as much of a stranger to him as she was to Lina. …And his mother had no idea that that was the case.

Adam headed out the door, firmly convinced that he was about to make a fool of himself.

Half an hour later, he was still fighting the urge to bang his head against the steering wheel.

At least she hadn’t laughed at him.

She hadn’t done anything except sit there and tremble for a while. If he hadn’t known better, he would have said that she was scared, not sick.

It had been murder trying to get anything out of her and eventually, he’d given up trying to figure it out. It was none of his business anyway.

I’m leaving for Italy in a few hours,” Adam announced unexpectedly, while they were driving back to his apartment.

Okay…” Iman glanced at him. “How long will you be gone?”

It depends. There’s no set timeline for what I’m going to do. What are you going to be doing while I’m gone?”

Iman was caught off-guard by this unexpected question. “I don’t know. Is there something I should be doing?”

Adam took his eyes off the road for a moment to stare at her. “I meant, are you going to be staying at the apartment? You’ll be by yourself for an unknown amount of time and I don’t have guards at the doors to keep you safe,” he reminded her.

A spike of fear shot through her. “You think I should stay with my grandfather?”

Adam nodded. “It’s the safer option.”

Um, okay. I’ll get someone to pick me up.” Iman reached for her cellphone.

Don’t. I’ll drop you off.”

Oh,” Iman didn’t know what to say. “Thank you. But… isn’t it less convenient?” He’d have to drop her off, then drop his car back at his apartment before getting a taxi to the airport.

Don’t worry about it. Be ready to leave by four, please.”

They spent the remainder of the journey in silence. When they got to the apartment Adam headed into his office without a word to her and Iman, bored and still jittery, decided to spend some of her energy packing.

She’d kept a substantial amount of her things at her grandfather’s home. In truth, she didn’t need to pack anything at all besides her handbag and sketchpad. Nonetheless, she wasted over an hour packing and repacking her smaller suitcase before she was done.

There was something that she could have been doing. Something that, if she was honest, had needed to be taken care of days ago. But she’d been too afraid to do anything about it.

Aasia. She’d contacted Iman the morning of her wedding to let her know that the Rahmans wouldn’t be attending either the ceremony or the little get together that had happened afterward.

Apparently they were on a cruise and wouldn’t be back for at least a month. But two days ago, Aasia had demanded that Iman call her immediately. Iman hadn’t obeyed. She had instead elected to pretend that she’d never received the message. God only knew how long avoidance would work against Aasia but Iman knew in her gut that she was playing with a landmine no matter what she chose to do.

She picked up her phone and dialled her mother’s number. Her thumb hovered over the green call button as she debated what to do.

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