Aabirah’s mood swings made Daaem’s head hurt. She’d been puffed up and spoiling for a fight all night – he was surprised it had taken her so long to work up to it, honestly. But then she’d just… shut down. She had a habit of doing that, he’d noticed. It unnerved him. It didn’t seem entirely natural that she could just shut down like that.
He itched to poke at her until she exploded again. He’d liked that she was jealous. It appealed to his ego. He curbed the impulse, knowing it was a bad idea. He’d worked so hard to keep their image squeaky clean, it would be a shame to throw all that effort away for a few moments of satisfaction.
Still, it was tempting. Too tempting, Daaem realized in a rush. He knew himself well enough to know that if they didn’t leave soon, he’d be waking up in the morning to yet another irate call from his father, cursing him for another stupid mistake.
The old man had taken to calling him again regularly over the past six months and Daaem couldn’t decide how to feel about it. On the one hand, the attention was nice. On the other, he despised being nagged and the way his father talked down to him made his teeth grit.
Still, he took every call.
A voice calling his name distracted him. He looked up and suppressed the urge to groan. Kamal Joosab. Of course.
He reached out for Aabirah quickly, towing her with him out of their secluded little alcove. The last thing he wanted was for Joosab to decide to join them for a long chat. If they started moving, perhaps he could get away with just a quick, painful exchange of greetings.
It wasn’t to be. Daaem quickly found himself trapped.
“Introduce me to your lovely wife,” Kamal prompted him eventually.
“Aabirah, this is Mr. Kamal Joosab,” Daaem said simply.
“I’ve known Daaem since he was little,” Kamal jumped in. “His father and I have a lot of history together.”
Daaem smiled tightly. Kamal hadn’t mentioned – wouldn’t mention – that that history was filled with failed attempts to try and undermine the Shaiks.
“My father’s mentioned you,” Aabirah said brightly.
If Daaem hadn’t been watching Kamal, he would have missed the guarded look that flickered over his face, quickly replaced by the same fake smile he’d been wearing all night.
“Yes,” he agreed. “I’ve met your father. Excuse me, I’ve got to go.”
Daaem stared at his wife. “How did you do that? Why did you do that?”
Aabirah shrugged. “You didn’t seem happy to see him. And my father has mentioned him. Well, cursed him, to be more accurate.”
“He’s a snake. He likes exploiting people’s weaknesses,” Daaem explained. “Stay away from him.”
Aabirah nodded. “I will. Do you think we could leave now? I’m a little tired.”
Why had she helped him? Aabirah hadn’t ever answered the question properly, Daaem realized late that night, lying in bed and going over the night in his head.
“You didn’t seem happy to see him,” she’d said. But why did she care? Did she, even? Perhaps she’d just wanted Kamal to leave – he certainly had. The man was poisonous.
That was probably it, he decided sleepily.
He slept badly, tossing and turning all night and by the time he’d woken up in the morning, Aabirah was already in the air.
He’d wanted to say goodbye, Daaem realized in shock. He’d wanted to eat breakfast with her before she left.
This was bad.
He worried over the issue until he got to work where all thoughts of Aabirah were abruptly driven out of his head.
He had a visitor. Irritably, he wondered why he paid security if anyone could get into his office and ambush him whenever they wanted.
“Emma, we need a security overhaul,” he said mildly.
“I’m sorry, sir.”
The man waiting in his office scowled. “Your security used to be mine. No one would dream of trying to deny me access to a building I built.”
“It used to be yours. It’s mine now. I didn’t have unlimited access when you were running the place, did I? Hell, I didn’t have any access.”
“You were an irresponsible child. That doesn’t seem to have changed. Do you plan to spend the morning complaining or are you going to behave like an adult at all?”
Daaem smiled at his father. “You need to leave,” he informed him. “I have work to do.”
“Oh, I’m not staying long. I have things to do with my day as well. But, you’ve avoided me over the phone for six months about this and enough is enough. You need to introduce me to your wife.”
“No. You’re not meeting her.”
“And why on earth not? The world has met her. It’s gotten ridiculous now, Daaem. She’s your wife, not a toy to be possessive over.”
Had he really been happy about attention from his father yesterday? Clearly, he’d temporarily lost his mind.
“I don’t hate the world. That’s the difference.”
“You’re a child. I don’t know how you managed to turn out like this. I am not budging on this, Daaem. It looks ridiculous that I have never met my own daughter-in-law. If it’s that unbearable for you, you don’t have to be a part of it.”
“No!” Daaem snapped furiously.
“Then be a part of it,” his father said exasperatedly. “Don’t be so indecisive,” he lectured. “It’s childish.”
“Emma will schedule something,” Daaem said, giving up. To date, he’d never won with his father.
“Friday at seven. It’s in your calendar.”
“You-” Daaem’s shoulders came up and he took a deep breath. He would not scream. All it would do was make his father scold him about throwing tantrums.
“Fine. Now go. Please.”
Daaem turned to Emma. “If he’s here again, call me. Even if you can’t get him out of here, I want to know before I walk into an ambush again.”
“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.”