Chapter Twenty One
Daaem woke up in a wonderful mood. He’d gotten a verbal commitment from Adam before the night had ended and he knew it was in no small part thanks to the fact that Aabirah had seemed to hit it off with Adam’s wife Iman.
His phone began to ring as he lay there and as he sat up to grab it, he noticed the time and frowned. Who would be calling him at seven am on a Saturday morning?
It was Adam. Cautiously, Daaem answered.
The man was furious, demanding an explanation for the morning’s headlines. Daaem went cold. He attempted twice to explain that he didn’t know what was going on but Adam was having none of it. He explained curtly that their agreement was definitely off and ended the call.
Daaem navigated to the news reading app on his phone. Had the press dredged up some scandal from his past? But Adam had been well aware of everything in Daaem’s past – that was why it had taken so long for Daaem to get him on board with a partnership.
One look at the day’s headlines had cleared up all his confusion and sent him into a towering rage. A few moments later, he found himself banging on Aabirah’s door, wanting an anwer.
She didn’t answer. Daaem reached for the door handle and, finding it locked, began to shout. “Aabirah! Aabirah, open this door! Right now, damn it!”
He heard a scrape and the door opened slowly. Aabirah stood holding onto the handle, an apprehensive expression on her face.
“What’s wrong?” she asked fearfully.
“Adam called me this morning to break our deal.”
“I’m sorry,” Aabirah said carefully. “What happened?”
“You. You are what happened.”
“What? I didn’t do anything. Iman and I had a nice time last night. Is that what he told you?” Aabirah looked annoyed.
“He told me to explain today’s headlines. I thought that it was my fault. But then I checked the news.”
Daaem held out his phone. “Care to explain this?” he asked.
“Mehmood Amal arrested on suspicions of embezzlement and tax evasion,” Aabirah read out, her eyes widening. “Oh, I knew he’d get caught,” she said ruefully, shaking her head.
Daaem’s temper spiked. “You knew? Does your father regularly break the law?” he demanded.
“Yes, Daaem,” Aabirah sounded confused. “Why does that surprise you, he’s an awful person.”
“I wasn’t aware of that,” Daaem said tightly. “How could I have been?”
“I told you so,” Aabirah said. “I told you the day after we got married that my father had forced me into marrying you.”
“I – I didn’t realize you were telling the truth,” Daaem admitted.
“I was. My father told me I was marrying you and when I refused, he drugged me so that I wouldn’t make a fuss on our wedding day.”
“Oh,” Daaem said dumbly.
“You didn’t believe me?” Aabirah asked curiously.
“No. Qasim told me you knew about everything and then your father told me it was all your idea,” Daaem explained.
Aabirah laughed humorously. “It was definitely not my idea,” she assured Daaem. “I found out after you and my father agreed on everything.”
“Oh,” Daaem said. He felt slightly ill. He’d woken up in such a good mood that morning and now… everything seemed to be going wrong.
“Daaem, what now?” Aabirah asked carefully.
“What do you mean?”
“With – with our marriage. You know now that I wasn’t willing to get married to you,” Aabirah said bluntly.
What were they going to do? Get divorced?
Daaem’s mind rebelled at the thought. He didn’t want to divorce Aabirah.
But he knew, keeping her was wrong.
“I told you already,” he found himself saying. “I’ll return you when I get my money back.”
The hopeful expression on Aabirah’s face turned to one of disgust. “Right,” she said bitterly. “Of course you will. You realize that I don’t have 5 million dollars, right? You gave that money to my father. And, as you’ve seen, he has no problem keeping what’s not his.”
“Then I guess you’ll have to stay married to me,” Daaem said, feigning disinterest.
Internally, he felt sick. What was he doing? But he couldn’t stop. He didn’t want to stop.
Aabirah slammed her door behind her and burst into tears. She knew that Daaem could probably hear her but she didn’t care. For a few wonderful moments, she’d hoped that she would finally have control of her own life. She’d hoped that Daaem would be kind and do the right thing.
But those hopes had been swiftly shattered. She realized dully that somewhere along the line, she’d begun expecting more of him. She didn’t know how he’d managed to slip in behind her boundaries but he had. She’d started to have hope in him, to think of him as not so bad.
She knew better now and she was almost glad that he’d brought her to her senses.
Aabirah’s alarm began to blare and she got up to silence it. She needed to be ready to leave in half an hour. For once, returning to the estate sounded wonderful. She didn’t want to be near Daaem for a second longer.
Four hours later, Aabirah was being driven back to the estate. She’d managed to avoid Daaem when she left. She assumed he’d been holed up in his office but she hadn’t bothered to check.
She reached into her handbag and turned her phone back on, wanting something to do to keep her busy during the drive.
There were several calls from unknown numbers which she ignored, knowing that they were from people who wanted to ‘express their sympathies’ and, more importantly, get accurate gossip to spread.
The calls from Qasim made her pause. She hadn’t spoken to her brother since their last, disastrous conversation – after a day of calling on and off, Qasim had gotten the message and stopped trying.
As she debated with herself, the phone began to ring again. Before she could stop herself, Aabirah answered it.