Chapter Thirty Four
“I knew leaving was a terrible idea,” Shaida grumbled, even as she bustled around the room, fluffing pillows and adjusting the curtains. “I knew you’d need me. Thank goodness I insisted on staying.”
Iman grimaced apologetically at Fareed who seemed to be taking his wife’s bad temper in stride. “I’ll bring you something to take for the pain,” he said, patting her knee.
“Could you make sure my grandfather sleeps?” He’d been so upset. She’d never seen him that way before.
“Of course.” Fareed got to his feet. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Iman looked at Shaida once he’d left. “You should sleep too.”
“I’m not leaving you alone,” Shaida said at once. “I’ll be fine, you don’t worry about me.” But Iman could see the exhaustion on her. Shaida had been run off her feet for months now. She should have been relaxing and enjoying being doted on by her own mother but instead she was spending her time mothering Iman.
“I want to sleep myself,” Iman lied. “You might as well get some rest. Please? For me?”
Shaida wavered. “I’ll wait til you’re sleeping,” she decided eventually.
“Shae, give her some space. I’m sure Iman will call you if she needs anything.” Fareed handed Iman a little cup of pills and a bottle of water then took his wife’s hand. “Come on, you need to sleep.”
Iman nodded in agreement. “I’ll be fine.”
Shaida pursed her lips. “You shouldn’t be left alone. Let me stay until you fall asleep.”
“Honey,” Fareed said patiently. “She’ll be out in a few minutes with those pills.”
“Alright,” Shaida relented, letting Fareed tow her behind him gently. “Your phone’s next to you if you need it. Call me if there’s anything. Anything at all.”
“I will,” Iman lied, promising herself that she wouldn’t.
The door shut with a click and she looked down at the little plastic cup before upending all four of the pills into her mouth.
She was fast asleep. Adam looked down at the tiny blonde – dwarfed by her covers, with her hair in a ridiculous state – and found something deep within himself begin to ease.
It was almost dawn.
She’d wake up soon and he’d have to tell her what he’d done. Would she be shocked? Terrified? Or would she understand?
Adam didn’t know. Either way, he didn’t regret it in the slightest. There was one less monster on the streets and he’d sleep easier knowing that he wouldn’t ever get his hands on Iman again.
He sank into a chair, careful to keep his movements soundless. He didn’t doubt that a strange man in her bedroom would terrify her. But leaving her alone was beyond him. He couldn’t shake the feeling that if he left her alone, something would happen to her.
So he camped in a chair, to ease his own worries and keep her safe as long as he was able.
Iman was groggy when she woke, no doubt a side-effect of the cocktail of pills she’d swallowed. Her wrists throbbed angrily, the pain cutting through the fog in her mind and waking her up enough that she noticed the man slumped in her vanity chair.
Her heart raced until she recognized him. Adam. Had he slept in that chair all night? It didn’t even have a back!
As though her errant thought had unbalanced him, he began to list to the side before startling awake and looking around wildly. His eyes met hers and his mouth curved into a smile. “You’re awake,” he said, sounding pleased.
Iman nodded, suddenly shy.
“How are you feeling?”
She’d meant to say fine, but her mouth betrayed her. “Awful,” she admitted.
“I don’t ever want to see him again.” Even as she said it, the thought of encountering him made her feel ill. She tightened her arms around her middle, trying to calm the waves of nausea.
“You won’t have to.”
The conviction in Adam’s voice made Iman lift her head and stare at him. “How do you know?” she whispered, horrified.
I am going to take every bit of pain you felt tonight out of that disgusting man’s hide.
What had he done?
“I killed him,” Adam said softly. “Last night, when I left, I went to make sure he wouldn’t ever be a threat again.”
No. Oh God, no. Iman stifled a sob with the back of her hand.
“Do you want me to go?” Adam had a resigned look on his face.
What? What was he talking about?
Iman shook her head. “That won’t help!”
“What will help then?” he snapped, a frustrated look on his face.
“I don’t know!” Panic made her shrill. “Why did you have to kill him?”
“Because he was a monster!” Adam exploded. “He deserved to die!”
“I know that! But it’s dangerous!” Somehow, the thought of Adam dying was making her panic even more than the thought of dealing with her stepfather. She could have borne that more easily than this unrelenting anxiety.
“Iman, what are you talking about?” Adam asked softly. “It’s not dangerous. This is my job, remember?”
He didn’t understand. She shook her head and tried to explain, stuttering out a garbled version of the explanation her grandfather had given her what felt like ages ago.
Adam held up a hand. “Is that all that bothers you?” he asked, a strange hope in his eyes.
What else would it be? Iman voiced the question and Adam stared at her. “You’re not afraid of me?”
Iman shook her head.
“Or disgusted by me?”
“Of course not!”
A smile began to make its way across Adam’s face. Iman watched, distracted despite herself. She’d never seen him smile like that before. It suited him.
Iman ducked her head in embarrassment and her eyes landed on the bruises that decorated her wrists. Her anxiety came rushing back and she sprang to her feet.
“Iman, calm down,” Adam said soothingly, holding out his hands. “There’s nothing to worry about.”
He still didn’t understand. “Of course there is!” she snapped.
“No, there isn’t. I know what I’m doing. I cleaned up after myself.”
“There are guards. They would have seen you!”
Adam sighed. “The guards have been threatened and bribed. The body and a car have been moved and will be found in a few days. We’ve done this before. Many times.”
He sounded so sure…
But her grandfather had been just as sure that it was too dangerous. Iman said as much and Adam’s mouth firmed into a line. “Your grandfather does things very differently to my stepfather.”
What did that mean? Before Iman could ask, the door was flung open.