Chapter Forty Seven
His throat still burned but this new burn was far easier to bear. Adam poured the remainder of the bottle straight down his throat, grinning viciously as his insides objected to the fiery liquid. He tossed it to the side, relishing the discordant crash as it shattered against the remnants of its brothers.
He’d spent the past week in a haze, experimenting with the amount of alcohol he needed to find that beautiful numbness he’d been craving without drinking so much that he couldn’t see straight.
He’d hated the taste of it at first but now he’d come to relish the bite for what it brought with it – an escape.
Kat looked at him pityingly as she crouched next to his prone form. “You’re killing yourself.”
Adam nodded lethargically. “Yep.”
“Do you think this is what I’d want, Adam? For you to piss your life away?”
A bolt of pain cut through the haze. Kat seemed to waver. “You don’t want anything. You’re dead. Maybe if I die, I’ll get to see you again. Get to apologize.”
“No,” she whispered. “You won’t.”
She was right. He was going straight to Hell and he refused to believe that Kat – bright, sweet Kat – was destined for the same. She’d worked so hard to try and be better… Surely – Surely, that made a difference.
His temples began to throb and he reached clumsily for one of the bottles scattered around him, putting it to his lips. He was tired of thinking.
Adam groaned, resting his head against the cool porcelain of the tiles. His stomach churned and he fought the urge to vomit. There was nothing left in him to bring up but his body didn’t care. It punished him for the poison he drank by forcing him to endure almost constant aching. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been in no pain at all.
He needed to eat. He’d forgotten again. Food would help the alcohol work its magic without condemning him to hours spent in front of a toilet, trying not to crack his head open on the tiles.
There was no more food in his little room. That wasn’t surprising, he hadn’t stepped foot out of it in days. He’d need to go out if he wanted anything – the cheap little room he was paying for didn’t include luxuries like room service.
Adam struggled to his feet, using the sink for leverage and stood there, waiting for the dizziness to subside. He couldn’t drive like this. He had no problems risking his own skin but he wouldn’t risk someone else. Not again.
He sank back down. Food could wait until he was sober. It wouldn’t take long – he was out of alcohol too.
Crappy, hole in the wall motels weren’t supposed to have standards. They especially weren’t supposed to have staff who stared at him and made comments about his drinking and offered to call him someone to help.
He needed to leave. He’d lost it with the short little receptionist and by the terrified look on her face, he knew to expect security at his door soon.
Adam felt guilty about scaring her. It wasn’t her fault that she looked like – like – He still couldn’t say her name.
Hatred overwhelmed him, vicious and consuming.
He wondered where she was, whether she was in the same shape he was. He’d killed her grandfather, killed several other people she’d told him she’d known all her life. He’d wanted to make them suffer, had taken a grim pleasure in knowing that every bullet was slowly balancing the scales.
The Khans had killed more than he had by far. He still didn’t know what the exact body count was. But that compound had been home to over fifty people. Three had made it out on their own power. Just three.
And to add insult to injury, they’d torched the place. Adam hadn’t gone near his apartment but he was sure that they’d ransacked that as well. Thank God he hadn’t let her anywhere near any of the other properties Ali had kept maintained. All of them would have been gone.
He’d wanted to, he remembered. In those few wonderful, fake weeks when he’d thought they’d been getting closer – after she’d gone and kissed him that day and gotten him to completely let his guard down – he’d had half-formed plans in his mind.
She’d told him once that she’d never gotten to travel much. He’d wanted to fix that. He’d wanted to show her his favourite places in the world.
If she’d only waited a little longer, he’d have given her even more to cripple him with.
God, what a fucking idiot he’d been.
She’d ruined everything. Everything.
No. He refused to give her the satisfaction of taking even that from him. He’d loved to travel all his life and she wouldn’t take that from him. He wouldn’t let her.
Little Uwais was adorable. Iman may have been biased but she thought that he looked just like Shaida, with her large brown eyes and the beginnings of her curly brown hair just starting to grow on his tiny head.
A wave of affection for the older woman rushed through her. Iman had no idea what she would have done without Shaida. She’d been there, ready to help and hold Iman through the grief and anger that had finally come crashing down on her.
Shaida had been infinitely patient with her, treating her as much like her own baby as she did Uwais.
Iman cuddled the little baby close, delighting in his solid weight and soft, satiny skin. In the three weeks that she’d been staying with Shaida she’d fallen deeper and deeper in love with the little boy and Shaida had begun to joke that Iman was acting as a substitute parent for Uwais while Fareed was away.
She sighed regretfully, making Uwais wrinkle his nose at the sudden gush of air. Fareed had been as good as his word – he’d been with Ibrahim the entire time and would stay with her grandfather until he was ready to be moved.
He’d missed so many of Uwais’s firsts in order to make sure that Iman’s grandfather was being given the best possible care. He would likely miss more in the next week until he was finally able to return.
She had no idea how she could ever possibly try to repay either Fareed or Shaida for all they’d done and the one time she’d tried to bring it up, Shaida had immediately called her an idiot and assured her that they were happy to do it.
They weren’t the only ones. She’d received calls from other members of her grandfather’s staff wanting to make sure she was alright, the most notable of which had been the half an hour long call she’d had with Waseem who’d asked her every question under the sun trying to make sure she had everything she needed.
Iman had expected them to be angry with her – she was the one with a tie to Adam. But she’d been met with a crowd of assassins and other sundry criminals anxious to make sure that nothing had happened to the little girl they’d watched grow.
Uwais wriggled, letting out a plaintive little wail and she felt laughter bubble inside her. He wasn’t happy that she’d been ignoring him.
She held out one of her hands making sure to let the bracelet she wore catch the light.
The baby cooed happily and reached for the shiny piece of jewellery, grasping it with his tiny fingers. He was enchanted.
Iman allowed herself to be distracted but in the back of her mind, it nagged. So many people had sacrificed for her. How would she ever be worthy of it?