Zak snorted. “You’re gorgeous.”
I coloured again. If this kept up, I wouldn’t have a drop of blood to spare for the rest of my body.
“So are you,” I said, feeling bold.
Zak shifted and opened his mouth.
“I’m still in the room, you two,” Rayyan called, effectively ruining the moment. He glared hard at Zak. “Keep it in your pants.”
“Sorry,” Zak said in a croaky voice.
My brother turned to me and suddenly I was the one with a dry mouth. Rayyan could be surprisingly scary when he was in the mood.
“Sorry, Ray,” I said quietly, ducking my head.
Rayyan rolled his eyes and muttered something under his breath. “Just… simmer down,” he said finally, relenting. “Talk about the freaking weather or something.”
He turned back to his phone, giving us the illusion of privacy once more. But the flirtatious mood had evaporated and we were left sitting awkwardly as we both tried to think of something to say.
“It’s… pretty cold.”
“Just taking your brother’s advice,” Zak explained. There was a new cautiousness in his voice but his eyes still held a glint of mischief.
Let’s play, they seemed to invite me.
How long had it been since I’d played with someone? “Are you always this biddable?” I asked in a sugary-sweet voice, letting my mouth curve into an angelic smile.
“Rarely,” he replied. “Today’s a somewhat special occasion.”
“Oh? What’s happening?”
Zak burst out laughing. “You’re really funny,” he said, shaking his head. He leaned forward. “So tell me more about yourself.”
Suddenly feeling shy, I shook my head. “You first.”
“No way, I’m a gentleman. Ladies first.”
“Age before beauty,” I countered.
Zak held up his hands. “I can see when I’m beat.”
He put his elbows on his knees and linked his fingers under his chin. “What do you know about me already?”
“Your name is Mirzaq.”
Zak gestured expectantly. “And?”
I grimaced. “That’s about it.”
Zak arched an eyebrow. “You agreed to meet me without knowing a thing about me?”
“I like to live dangerously.”
Wait… “What do you know about me?” I asked suspiciously.
“Your name is Azraa,” Zak mimicked me. “Aaaaand…” He trailed off teasingly.
I took the bait. “And?”
“Not a thing else.”
My mouth dropped open and he gave me a grin. “I like to live dangerously too.”
“I can see that.”
“Our grandparents are friends, right?”
I nodded. “For decades.”
“Yeah, I knew that.” Zak tugged on one of his ears. “This is harder than I thought it would be.” He stuck a finger under the collar of his shirt.
I waited patiently.
“Shit,” he muttered.
I couldn’t help but giggle at the sight he made, unable to sit still.
“You’re making fun of me?” Zak asked quietly. He’d ducked his head so I couldn’t see his expression.
Was this another joke or had I really offended him? I was surprisingly afraid that it was the latter. What was happening to me? I was the ice queen. Since when did I care so dearly for the feelings of a complete stranger?
There was a time when I’d felt a sick sense of satisfaction in eliciting ecactly this reaction in people in order to keep them away from him.
“I’m sorry,” I blurted out. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
There was a snort. Zak lifted his head, his eyes dancing. “I’m not that delicate, don’t you worry.”
I let out a frustrated growl. I hated apologizing. And I’d just done it for no good reason.
Zak’s eyes widened slightly. “Joke fall flat?” he asked rhetorically.
“Flat as a pancake,” I responded.
“Should I go back to talking about the weather?” He peered up at me through light brown eyelashes.
I shook my head. He was incorrigible.
I kind of liked it.
“I know one other thing about you now,” I commented, extending an olive branch.
“You’re a scaredy cat.”
Zak gaped at me. “I am not!” He folded his arms across his chest. “I’m not,” he insisted, looking offended.
“It’s been,” I pretended to look at my watch. “Way too long since you were supposed to tell me something about yourself.”
“But you’re the one who owes me a secret,” Zak countered. “So what does that make you?”
I pretended to be stumped. “Mysterious,” I announced smugly, once the gleam of victory had begun to shine in his eyes.
“Damn, you’re good.” Zak winced then. “Sorry, I meant darn.”
I found myself oddly charmed by the self-censorship. “So, I win.” I declared. “Time to fess up.”
Zak made a show of reluctance. “If I have to,” he grumbled.
“My name is Mirzaq, I’m twenty five years old, my blood type is O-negative and I have no diseases. I’m fully house-broken and very friendly.”
I leveled an unimpressed look at him. “Zero points. Wanna try again?”
“Harsh crowd,” he winced comically. “Okay, okay. I’m a joker – I think you probably figured that out by now. I’m an only child and I love flying.”
“Yeah, I have a pilot’s licence. I hate being stuck in one place and I like doing things myself so my parents got me an instructor for my sixteenth.”
“You’re not a pilot, though?” I guessed, from the wistful look in his eyes.
“Nope. My mother would lose her mind. She hates that I’m even in the air some of the time. If I’d made it a day to day thing, she would have killed me.”
“What do you do every day?”
“I’m a professional nerd.” Zak seemed to droop slightly, his shoulders curving forward a tad.
I frowned in confusion. “I crunch numbers,” Zak explained. “It’s boring but I’m great at it. And it makes the parents happy so that’s a plus.”
“And what do you do for you?”
“I fly,” Zak’s entire face brightened. “It’s the best feeling in the world. Especially when you’re the one at the controls. I know this is a total cliche but I actually do love travelling. It’s my favourite thing to do. I want to go everywhere.”
I felt a grin begin to spread itself across my face.
Posts have been scarce as I’ve been dealing with laptop issues. I typed this chapter on my phone which was… difficult.