Daaem stared at Aabirah as she sat down to breakfast, still clad in raw silk which by now looked rather pathetically crumpled. The bathroom in her bedroom had been amply stocked but she hadn’t found her suitcase or a maid and had been forced to stay in the dress she’d been wearing until she could locate the rest of her clothes.
“Did you forget to bring clothes?” Daaem asked bluntly.
“I couldn’t find my suitcase,” Aabirah explained.
“Anna would have put it in the room you changed in.”
Aabirah shook her head. “I changed on the plane,” she explained.
“Well, you might want to find Anna and ask her,” Daaem said lightly, checking his watch. “Your flight leaves in an hour.”
Aabirah gaped at him for a moment before spring up and dashing to the kitchen in search of Anna.
The kindly woman apologized profusely and explained that Aabirah’s luggage had been put away in another guest room.
“You can decide which one you prefer and let me know and I’ll keep that one reserved for your use alone.”
“Thank you Anna!” Aabirah said, giving her an impulsive hug. “You said it’s the room opposite and to the right of the one I slept in?”
“Yes, ma’am. Will you be leaving your things here or would you like me to pack them up for you?”
“I’ll leave them here,” Aabirah decided impulsively. She had no idea if Daaem would be angry about her leaving clothes in the apartment but it would be much easier if she didn’t have to lug bags with her every time she attended an event with him.
Aabirah shrugged internally, deciding that it couldn’t hurt. If Daaem had a problem with it, Anna would send everything back and Aabirah would know not to do it again.
Twenty minutes later, on the way to the airport, Aabirah entertained herself by dreaming of a home of her own where she wouldn’t have to think twice about leaving a few sets of clothing around.
Or have to leave with half an hour’s notice, she added, pressing a hand to her growling stomach.
Early Monday morning, Daaem found himself playing host to one of his least favourite people in the world. He’d arrived at work to the news that Kamal Joosab was waiting for him and had almost walked right back out.
The conniving old man had been a business associate of his father for years and now that Daaem was in charge, Kamal seemed determined to find a chink in his armour to exploit. Unfortunately for Daaem, Kamal had powerful friends and considerable influence so he was forced to hide his dislike and entertain the man’s whims.
“Daaem!” Kamal cried, walking up to him and yanking him into an uncomfortable hug. Daaem’s shoulders stiffened and he suppressed the urge to sneeze as the overpowering scent of Kamal’s aftershave surrounded him.
Finally, he was let go and Kamal’s hands came down to clap him on the shoulders. “Late to the office this morning?” he asked, smiling poisonously.
It was ten to seven.
Daaem began to grind his teeth.
Joosab ignored Daaem’s lack of reply and kept right on talking. “I saw that you finally let you wife out on Saturday,” he went on. “It’s good. People had started to talk, you know? I heard a couple rumours myself, but of course I don’t entertain such things.”
He made them up himself instead, Daaem thought irritably. “Aabirah likes the estate,” was all he said aloud.
“Still, Daaem,” Kamal leaned forward, feigning concern. “You don’t want people to get the wrong impression. You mustn’t be too indulgent. You’re the boss, after all. Don’t try to please her. I made the same mistake, it doesn’t end well.”
He would know, Daaem thought. Kamal had been married eight times and not a single one of those marriages had lasted longer than two years.
“Thanks for the advice,” he said insincerely.
“My pleasure, my pleasure. You’re like a son to me, after all. And I must meet your wife, what did you say her name was?”
“Aabirah,” Daaem said shortly.
“Yes, Aabirah. Tell you what, why don’t the two of you join me for dinner tonight?” Kamal bared his teeth in a smile.
Daaem faked a smile. “Aabirah’s left the city already,” he admitted. It was pointless to deny it – Kamal probably already knew Aabirah was gone which was why he’d made the invitation in the first place.
“Already? Daaem, that’s not good. It looks like you’ve got something to hide and that’s never a good thing. Even if you do have something to hide.”
“I suppose not.”
Kamal’s eyes gleamed and Daaem knew to brace himself for what was coming next.
“You know,” he said. “I seem to remember that your wife lived here all her life. I would have thought she’d be attached to city life after two decades of it?”
“That’s exactly why she’s so fond of the estate actually,” Daaem corrected. “It’s a nice change. I agree with her,” he lied blatantly. He thought Aabirah was insane for liking the estate and he had no idea if she did prefer it. But there was no way he would admit that to an enemy.
“I see. Well, good for you. I hope it doesn’t get taken the wrong way by anyone important. After all, it does sound as though you’re not too committed to everything.”
Before Daaem could refute that ridiculous statement, Kamal had walked out.
Recognizing the look on his face, Emma hurried up to him with a cup of coffee. “I’m so sorry, sir,” she said miserably. “He was here before I even got in and he insisted on waiting for you.”
“It’s alright, Emma. If you’d tried to make him leave, you would’ve just made things worse.”
“Yes, sir,” she agreed. “I don’t know how he keeps getting right up here though. He shouldn’t have access, as a visitor.”
“He bribes the guards.” Kamal had done the same thing since Daaem was little. “Fungus is like that, it finds a way to creep in.”