Aabirah stood outside the door to Daaem’s office, feeling an uncomfortable sense of deja-vu, despite never having gone near the room before. How many times had she waited outside her father’s office, irritated and confused just the way she was right now?
Just another way Daaem resembled her father, she thought morosely.
But the one making her wait outside was herself today. She couldn’t quite bring herself to knock on that door.
Not just yet.
But there was only so long she could put it off for.
Finally, frustrated and fed up, Aabirah simply shoved the door open, bypassing the whole obstacle of knocking completely.
Daaem jumped when she threw the door open.
“Aabirah,” he said surprised. “Hi.”
“You told Holly you wanted to see me,” Aabirah said. It wasn’t a question.
“Yeah,” Daaem nodded. “You can… sit down if you want.” He gestured at the plush armchairs opposite him.
Aabirah blushed. “Right,” she said. “I’ll just… do that,” she trailed off.
She didn’t particularly want to give up the height standing gave her but it was ridiculous to hover in the doorway as she’d been doing.
She chose the armchair closest to the door and settled herself in comfortably, happily surprised when she realized that it wasn’t any lower than the chair Daaem was sat in.
Mehmood had always ensured that the chairs in his many offices were lowered – subtly, but enough to make sure that whoever sat opposite him felt shrunken in comparison. More than once, he’d boasted that the little psychological trick was responsible for more than one unfairly beneficial business deal going through.
That Daaem didn’t employ the same trick instantly made him rise a few points in her esteem.
“What did you need to talk to me about?” she asked once she’d made herself comfortable.
“People have been asking me about you,” Daaem said. “And I haven’t really known what to tell them.”
“Oh,” Aabirah blinked in surprise. “Why do you have to tell them anything?” she asked curiously.
“So they’ll stop asking,” Daeem said simply. “It’s been six months and the questions have gotten worse, not better. Ignoring them clearly hasn’t worked so we need to try another tactic.”
“Answering the questions. If you’re less of a mystery, people will get bored.”
“Oh.” It made sense, even Aabirah could see that. But it was such a different way of dealing with things to what she was used to that it made her blink.
“Are you willing to do that?” Daaem asked.
Aabirah hesitated. “Do what exactly?” she stalled.
Daaem shrugged. “Attend a few parties, maybe meet some people who have a large stake in things at work. It depends, really.”
Was she willing? Despite how bored she was, was she ready to go back to the city and pretend to be a loving wife?
Daaem mistook her hesitation as denial. “I’ll pay you for it,” he offered.
“I’ll pay you,” Daaem repeated. “For every event you go to with me.”
“Why would you do that?” Aabirah asked. Why hadn’t he just demanded?
“I’m tired of all the questions. This is the only way to make them stop. I need you to cooperate with me and I’m willing to do whatever I have to to make sure you do.”
Aabirah winced at the hidden threat.
“Okay,” she said immediately, not wanting to push. If she resisted, she knew, the carrot would turn into a stick.
Daaem’s mouth curled in contempt. “Don’t you wanna know how much first?”
“Does it matter?”
“Apparently not. I have work to do, you need to leave now.” Almost before she’d realized he was moving, Daaem got to his feet and rounded the desk.
He held open the door and looked at her impatiently.
Feeling wrong-footed and puzzled by the sudden shift in mood, Aabirah got to her feet and hurried out the door.
She puzzled over Daaem’s actions for the rest of the day, in between bouts of excitement and nervousness over leaving her little cocoon.
His problem had been solved, Daaem thought sourly. Aabirah had agreed the second he’d offered her money. So why was he so upset? He knew that his wife was a slave to money – that had become clear within days of knowing her. Why did it still upset him that she’d jumped at the thought of another pay check?
Maybe because he wanted her to spend time with him of his own volition.
Daaem shook his head, trying to clear it. He did not want Aabirah to spend any more time with him than necessary. He couldn’t afford it.
The one thing that had been good about the morning was Aabirah’s obvious confusion about how to use the media. Mehmood Amal’s method was to pay off anyone who asked questions about him and his own and clearly he’d passed it on to his daughter.
Daaem saw no point in paying off the press – there would always be another journalist who would come up with the same questions. It was faster, easier and cheaper to answer the questions in a way that portrayed them in the best possible light.
He powered up his laptop and quickly navigated to his calendar. Aabirah had agreed and no matter how much it annoyed him, Daaem was going to make use of his wife’s sudden agreeableness – bought or not.
He had a full social calendar for the coming week and none of the events he’d be attending were the kind he wanted to let Aabirah near until he had a better idea of how she’d behave.
Fiddling for a few moments unearthed a declined invitation to a dinner next Saturday. It was small and fairly unimportant which was why he’d declined it in the first place.
It was perfect.
He shot off a text to Emma to ensure that his RSVP was changed and promptly slammed the laptop shut again.
He needed a break.
Maybe a walk through the estate would help. If nothing else, it might bore him enough to let him take a nap.