Chapter Sixty Eight
Iman looked up at the sound of his footsteps, an eager look on her face. She opened her mouth to ask him a question and then abruptly shut it as he came into view, reading the answer in his expression.
Her face fell.
Adam sat next to her and wrapped his arms around her shoulders. “I don’t want to talk, okay?”
“Okay,” she agreed. “We don’t have to talk. We can just sit.”
And they did. Adam lay his head against her shoulder and played with her hair, trying to come to terms with what had just happened. It had felt like a sucker punch to hear his mother like that, distraught and furious and so, so bitter.
“I think I would have preferred to have never spoken to her again,” he said finally. “It would have been… easier.”
Iman ran a hand through his hair. He saw her fight against the urge to give him another apology – refusing to put her own guilt first – and felt a wave of affection for her go through him. “You didn’t make it worse,” he told her.
She looked at him, clearly disbelieving. “Okay.”
It was the truth. Lina’s anger had already been there. She’d been told the truth some time in between Ali’s actual death and Kat taking control. That was why she’d refused to let him in the last time he’d tried to see her.
“She’s… angry. With me, with Kat. The only person she’s not angry with is Ali.” That had been a shock of its own – to hear his mother defend the man who’d nearly killed him, Iman and Kat. Everything that had happened – to them all – could be traced back to Ali and his thirst for power.
Adam had finally begun to accept that and Lina insisting otherwise had made him ill. He’d always told himself that she didn’t know the extent of her husband’s cruelty. But now… he was no longer so sure.
The Lina who had hissed at him that she wished she could trade his life for her husband’s – that woman wasn’t someone he recognized. Had grief made her that way or was Adam simply seeing her clearly for the very first time?
He wanted to tell himself that the mother he remembered was the true Lina, that her pain had changed her.
He wanted to tell himself that.
What the Hell had she done?
Something had broken in Adam, in those long minutes he’d spent upstairs in the study. Whatever words had been exchanged between mother and son, they’d left deep, bleeding wounds and Iman had no idea how to heal them.
She’d seen Adam bleeding, dying and suicidal. But she’d never seen him in this state before.
Why had she pried?
She listened silently as Adam talked, stroking his hair and letting him use her as a resting place.
He’d told her that he didn’t want to talk and she was beginning to understand now that he’d meant he didn’t want to have a conversation. He needed her to listen when he was ready to speak and be there for him.
She could do that.
It was the least she could do.
He’d said that she hadn’t made it worse. And maybe she hadn’t made Lina worse. But she had been the one to put Adam in the line of fire.
He was so hurt now.
Silent tears trickled down her cheeks as her heart ached for him.
Iman had never stopped caring for her mother, Adam remembered. Up to the day Aasia had died, her daughter had cared for her to the point that she had shed tears upon hearing the news of her mother’s death.
Would he be the same? Would he spend the rest of his life with a wound inside him, never healing and aching whenever he thought of Lina?
Adam shuddered and Iman’s hand paused its stroking. She looked at him in concern, her eyes bright with tears.
“I’m alright,” he said, trying to smile reassuringly.
Her face crumpled and she turned away.
His own pain momentarily forgotten, Adam focused on his wife. “Please don’t cry.” He was already close to tears himself. If she kept going, he’d be right behind her.
Iman sniffed and swiped impatiently at her cheeks.
“It’ll be okay,” Adam told her, trying to comfort.
“I shouldn’t have meddled,” she argued miserably. “It wasn’t my place.”
Adam blinked, momentarily distracted. “You’re my wife. If it’s anyone’s place, it’s yours. I know you were just trying to do something nice.”
Iman’s face fell even further. “And now you’re trying to make me feel better.” A ghost of a smile flitted over her face. “How can I ever make this up to you?”
“Just… sit with me. It’s helping.”
They woke in a tangle of limbs, hours later. Sleep had allowed the ache inside Adam to dull and he even found the energy to smile at Iman when she looked at him. It still hurt, but a scab had begun to form over the new wound and he knew that in time, it would fade into a scar.
Iman yawned and he looked down at her, wincing as the movement woke the aches sleeping in such an awkward position had left him with.
“Let’s go up to bed,” he suggested.
Iman looked surprised. “No work?”
“It’s our first anniversary. I have other plans.”
She winced. “We don’t have to…” she began guiltily, eyeing him like he was going to go to pieces in front of her.
“Yes, we do.” Adam disagreed. “I want to. But,” he allowed. “I might not be the best company.”
Iman put an arm around him. “You’re perfect,” she disagreed. “Just perfect.”
Adam leaned into her, letting her warmth distract him. “Happy anniversary.”
It would be happy, Adam decided then. She deserved it. And… so did he.
He pushed the lingering thought of his mother out of his head. They’d be back eventually. But not today. Today was for good things.
This chapter was actually finished last night. But I couldn’t quite let go just yet. The epilogue will be up in a few hours 🙂