Chapter Twenty One
Zak looked at me beseechingly. “Don’t be mad.” He reached out to stroke my hand. “I had to. You understand, don’t you?’ He looked at me eagerly, waiting for me to agree, to smile and regain my composure.
I obliged him. “Yes,” I said dutifully. “Of course I do.”
It wasn’t a lie.
I did understand. I understood why Zak had lied to me. And I understood what I was meant to do now.
He kissed me tenderly, a reward. “You’re so good to me. I love you.”
He paused expectantly and tugged on my hair when I didn’t respond. “You’re not saying it back?”
“I said I love you. You didn’t hear me?” Zak’s voice was tight. He rose up off the bed and turned away from me.
I propped myself up on an elbow and faced him, speaking to his back. “I’m sorry.” I raised a hand and lightly touched his shoulder, holding my breath as I waited to see if he’d shrug me off. “Zak, I’m sorry,” I repeated. “I was just thinking about everything I have to do so we can go when you want us to.”
He said nothing but I felt the tension go out of his frame. He wasn’t angry any more, not really. He just wanted me to placate him.
And so I did. I squeezed my eyes shut tightly for a moment then spoke. “I’m really sorry, Zak. Please forgive me.” The words tasted like ash in my mouth.
An arm snaked around my waist and he dragged me over him. “Tell me you love me,” he ordered.
“I love you.”
There was a flash of perfectly even white teeth as Zak grinned. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” I whispered.
I felt one of his hands begin to slide up my dress and felt my stomach turn over. “Zak,” I scolded, keeping my voice light. “Your parents are waiting for us for dinner.”
He grinned harder, unrepentant. “They can keep waiting.”
I groped blindly for the light switch on the wall, plunging the room into darkness.
It was easier this way.
Congratulations, Azraa Razi. You’ve been married for a whole month. Congratulations on screwing it up faster than you have anything else.
The worst thing was that Mirzaq – Zak, I corrected myself automatically, wincing – wasn’t any different. He’d been just as demanding before we got married. But I’d convinced myself that it was romantic. I’d convinced myself that a lot of things were romantic.
I was learning now that a fiance who was demanding over the phone translated into a husband who was demanding in person. In many ways.
I didn’t know what was normal when it came to sex but the way Zak grabbed me constantly and tossed me down wasn’t anything like the giggly descriptions I’d overheard in high school and college or even the overly clinical explanations my doctor of a mother had seen fit to provide me with over the years.
There was no one I could ask for advice. Trying to broach the topic with Zak himself had led to a spectacular tantrum – he’d been furious at the implication that he was lacking in some way and I’d had to scramble to talk him down.
I was exhausted and miserable, trapped in a cage that I’d willingly walked into.
I grunted as Zak slouched down on top of me. He was done.
I heard him let out a light snore and sighed, rolling my eyes. Of course. My stomach rumbled angrily and I began the slow task of extracting my limbs out from underneath his without waking him.
I’d almost made it out of bed when Zak jerked awake. “Where are you going?” he demanded sleepily. “Come back.” One of his hands reached out to grab my shoulder.
“I need the bathroom,” I lied.
“Oh,” Zak wrinkled his nose. “Fine. Come back when you’re done,” he instructed me.
I felt a stab of revulsion. All I wanted was a moment to myself.
“I want to lie with you,” he added. There was such a sweet look on his face that I instantly felt awful.
“I’ll be right back,” I promised.
In the bathroom, away from him, confusion crept in. Was he the unreasonable one or was I?
Yes, he was enthusiastic. But weren’t most men like that?
And yes, he wanted to be with me constantly. But… that was just because we were newlyweds. And it was worse because he wasn’t back at work yet.
I was being unreasonable.
I turned on the shower and stayed under the spray long after I’d pruned, letting the water ease the soreness I felt over every inch of my skin.
The water brought clarity.
Zak wasn’t perfect. But I had no right to expect him to be. I was far from flawless.
I leaned against the wall, letting it cool me as I thought back to the first time we’d met. He’d been playful and insistent back then too. He hadn’t changed. I was the one who couldn’t be pleased.
I pictured his beautiful face. I’d been angrier than I should have been, my rage fuelled by the news he’d given me. But he’d been right to hide it, hadn’t he? My immediate reaction had been fury.
That wasn’t wifely. It wasn’t supportive.
It wasn’t his fault either. He’d been transferred. He hadn’t asked for it to happen. But it had happened. And now we had to deal with it.
I needed to be understanding. I needed to be supportive.
I shut off the water and wrapped a towel around myself then walked out to the bedroom and knelt next to his head.
“This transfer’s a good thing for your career?” I checked.
Zak blinked. “Yeah,” he agreed after a beat. “Yeah, it is.”
I kissed him. “Congratulations. I’m so happy for you.”
“For us,” he corrected, stretching up to kiss me again. “It’s gonna be just you and me. Isn’t that great? We should celebrate.”
My stomach grumbled again and Zak looked down at it. “I guess we can feed you first.”