Chapter Twenty Five
Fed up with her own fear, Iman made the call, her stomach twisting with nerves.
“Iman!” Aasia’s voice was sugary-sweet, a sure sign that she was with other people. “I’m so glad you finally called.”
There was a rustling noise and then Iman heard, muffled. “My daughter. She’s on her honeymoon! Can you imagine? I’m old enough to have a married daughter.” Aasia giggled. “I know, I don’t look it, do I? I’d better go talk to her, I’ll just be a sec so don’t you go anywhere!”
A male voice spoke in the background. “I’ll be right here waiting for you, sweetheart.”
Iman’s cheeks burned. Even now, years after being exposed to it for the first time, Aasia’s casual infidelity still made her cringe.
“Well,” Aasia snapped abruptly, “you certainly took your own sweet time to call me back. Just what was so important that you decided to ignore me?”
“I’m sorry,” Iman said dutifully. “I should have called you back faster.”
“Yes, you should have. But you’ve always been a disappointment. I shouldn’t even expect more from you by now, you’re clearly incapable of it.”
Iman bit the inside of her cheek.
“Well, aren’t you going to tell me?” her mother demanded shrilly. “Am I supposed to beg you?”
What? What was Aasia talking about?
There was an enraged shriek and Iman realized she’d spoken her thought out loud.
“Have some respect when you talk to me!” The tone made her back stiffen.
Aasia huffed. “Now tell me about your husband,” she demanded. “It’s bad enough that you didn’t even introduce me to him, you will not embarrass me any more! I refuse to be shown up in front of the people I know because you want to be secretive, you ungrateful little brat. Tell me everything I need to know about him, right now!”
“His name is Adam Cassim. He’s two years older than me.” Iman wished she had the guts to just cut the call.
“Is he rich?”
“No,” Iman lied. “He’s not.” Adam was wealthy, of course he was. Mercenaries were paid incredibly well – they risked too much of themselves not to be.
Aasia tsked. “Well, I’m not surprised. Your grandfather associates with terrible people. You should have waited and let me choose you a husband, but of course you had to rush and do what you wanted. Well, don’t come crying to me if it’s hard to live with.”
“I won’t,” Iman snapped, infuriated by the crack against Ibrahim and emboldened by the distance.
“That attitude will do you no favours,” Aasia assured her. “And don’t think you can come back to my house, after the way you left! You’re just going to have to tell that new husband of yours that even your own mother can’t stand you. I wonder how long he’ll stay with you once he knows that,” she hissed vindictively.
Aasia disconnected the call, saving Iman from having to come up with a retort.
Frustration and regret welled within her. She should never have called. Why had she called? What had she been thinking, that suddenly her mother was going to change? That Iman leaving would make Aasia treat her better?
Iman squeezed her eyes shut and pressed a hand against them, trying to stop the tears. It didn’t work.
The stupid little girl inside Iman, the one who’d never truly accepted that her mother didn’t love her, had been hoping that somehow, things would be different. Somehow, Aasia would realize that she was hurting her daughter and would change.
She was still so stupid.
“Hey, Ms. Newlywed!” James grinned down at her. “What are you doing here?” He glanced behind her. “And with a bag? Trouble in Paradise?”
Iman felt her mood lift immediately and the smile she gave James was almost genuine. “No, Adam has a job,” she explained.
“Ah!” James nodded. “So you’re gonna be pining away, huh?” He made a comically distraught expression, pressing an imaginary handkerchief to his eyes.
“There,” James said smugly. “Now you don’t look so miserable any more.”
Iman winced. Had she really looked that bad?
“Any time,” the tall man assured her. “Just think of me as your own personal clown.”
“You’re everyone’s clown, Blackwell,” Shaida called as she made her way to them. “Now get out of the way, you’re blocking the doorway.”
“What? Oh!” James moved to the side, letting Iman in.
“Your grandfather has been waiting for you for over an hour, go put him out of everyone’s misery,” Shaida ordered as she took Iman’s suitcase and handed it to James. “And you, put this upstairs.”
Iman gasped in dismay. “I gave him the wrong time?”
“No, you’re right on time. Actually, I think you’re early. He’s just excited to see you.”
Shaida put a hand at the middle of her back and urged her forward. “Go put him out of everyone’s misery.”
Iman did as she was told.
Moments later, cuddled against her grandfather, Iman finally, finally felt safe again.
She sniffed, unable to help herself and Ibrahim pulled back. “What’s wrong? Wh-”
He froze, his eyes hardening and lifted a hand to Iman’s cheek. “What the hell is this?” he hissed. “When did this happen?”
Lightly, he touched the scratches Aasia had left. “These don’t look new, Iman. Are they? Do I need to hunt down your husband?”
“No,” Iman admitted reluctantly, cursing herself. “They’re from when I was with my mother.”
“She scratched you,” Ibrahim said flatly. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he demanded hotly. “You said you fell.”
“There wasn’t any point! Shaida came and got me and it was over! What would telling you have done?”
“I just didn’t want to think about it again,” Iman whispered miserably. “It was over. I wanted to forget it had ever happened.”
“Oh sweetheart. It’s not that easy.”
No, it really wasn’t. It wasn’t easy in the slightest.