The estate loomed dull and dreary as always. Daaem felt his mood worsening by the second. He hated being here. He’d spent an unhappy childhood on this estate, kept away from anyone and anything resembling civilization and returning always put him in a bad mood.
He had no choice this time, however. He had to talk to his wife, had to convince her to agree to his plans. And if she refused, well then he had to figure out a way to keep her from contacting the press out of spite or because she’d realized that they were a way for her to wring more cash out of him.
He really should never have married her.
Daaem glanced out the window as the car slowed to a stop. His hand faltered on the door handle as he noticed Aabirah standing the doorway. Was she there for him? Or was it just a coincidence that she’d come up to the entrance just as he’d arrived.
A few moments later, it became clear that she was, in fact, waiting for him. She was poorly dressed for the weather, in a thin dress and as he watched, she began to rub her hands up and down her arms in an effort to get warmer.
She hadn’t expected to wait so long for him. And she was clearly miserable. But still, she stood and waited for him. It pleased something deep inside Daaem to have her wait for him, no matter that it was incovenient.
It was almost as though she cared.
Daaem shook his head violently. Of course she didn’t care. She was most likely just being polite, nothing more. And he was far too old to fantasize about a woman waiting for him out of love.
He yanked open the door and stalked up to the house, paying Aabirah no mind.
She stepped forward as he passed, reaching out almost as though to stop him before shaking her head ruefully and turning on her heel, heading away from him.
Daaem felt oddly regretful as he watched her go, as though he’d broken something by accident and couldn’t fix it.
Aabirah paced the length of her room irritably. She’d known better than to think Daaem would have experienced a change of personality in the last six months. But still, she was disappointed. She’d been hoping, ridiculously, that they might be able to be civil with one another.
It seemed that she still hadn’t truly given up on Daaem. Just like a small part of her still hadn’t truly given up on Qasim. It was hard for her to admit that they were hopeless causes. She preferred to give them the benefit of the doubt even when they’d done nothing to earn it.
To date, the only person she’d truly given up on had been her father and he’d done some truly terrible things before Aabirah had finally had enough and thrown in the towel.
She’d promised herself that she wasn’t going to be unrealistic when it came to the men in her life any more. But that was far easier said than done. It wasn’t in her nature to give up on people, even when they gave her ample reason to.
Her stomach growled and she blinked in surprise. Looking down at her watch, she realized that it was long past time for supper. Was she meant to eat with Daaem? Holly hadn’t come up with a tray but would she be welcome at the dining table tonight?
Her stomach growled again and Aabirah decided to walk downstairs. If she was indeed unwelcome, Daaem would let her know. And she was too hungry to wait for Holly any longer.
Downstairs, she realized that she’d made the right choice. The table was set for two and Daaem sat at the head, fidgeting.
“Finally,” she heard him mutter as she entered.
“I lost track of time,” she excused herself. “Sorry for making you wait.”
“It’s okay,” he said gracelessly.
They spent the rest of the meal in silence. Aabirah kept her eyes on the table in front of her, squirming internally at the awkwardness. She concentrated on keeping the noise made by her utensils to the minimum and taking neat, small bites in an effort to make sure she didn’t look uncouth.
Etiquette lessons drilled into her when she was tiny began to whisper in her mind again and by the end of the meal, she was sitting so straight, her spine ached.
It was a relief to stand and make her way out of the room.
Halfway down the corridor, Daaem called her name.
“Yes?” she turned back expectantly.
“It’s nothing, don’t worry about it.”
“Alright,” Aabirah said uncertainly, blinking at him.
She waited for a moment longer then shrugged and continued making her way to her room, wondering absently what he’d wanted to say.
Daaem sighed irritably. What had that been? He’d had the perfect opportunity to broach things with Aabirah and he’d just… left it. She kept affecting him. It terrified him.
He’d spent the entire meal fighting the urge to stare, or worse, talk to her. He needed to remain aloof, he knew. If he didn’t – the consequences were too scary to even think about. It would be far, far too easy for his gorgeous wife to have him wrapped around her little finger and without even using any of wiles women usually employed to attract him.
It was infuriating and he suddenly felt a great deal of sympathy for the hen-pecked men he’d always looked down on in the past. He was well on his way to becoming one himself.
Finally, he took the easy way out, summoning a maid and getting her to talk to his wife for him.
With a few short sentences, he’d arranged to have Aabirah meet with him the next morning in his office.
It made him feel pathetic but it was better than talking to her himself and risking his sanity any longer.