Chapter Twenty Five
“What do you mean, no?” Daaem demanded. “You need to take back control of the company.”
Over the phone, Daaem heard a sigh. “Daaem, I’m not taking it back. I gave you control for a reason, it’s yours now.”
“You offered to help me,” Daaem said miserably. “I’m asking you for help. Why won’t you help me?”
“Daaem, I’m more than willing to help you but I won’t take control back. You can’t avoid your responsibilities,” Ameer said, exasperated.
“Fine,” Daaem whispered. “Whatever.”
“Don’t pout, Daaem. Look, what do you need help with?”
“Everything,” Daaem said flatly. “Do everything.”
Ameer sighed again. “I’ll take over for a month so you can have a break, alright?”
“Thanks,” Daaem said gruffly.
“You’re welcome,” was the surprised answer.
“Goodbye,” Daaem ended the call.
He’d expected to feel better now that the responsibility was gone but he just felt empty.
A week later, Daaem was on the verge of a breakdown. He hadn’t left his apartment in days nor had he interacted with anyone besides Anna. He hadn’t even left his bed unless it was to use the bathroom or let Anna clean.
Still, he hadn’t been able to rest. A call to his doctor had resulted in nothing more useful than a recommendation to visit a therapist, something that he refused to resort to.
He was frustrated and miserable and, oddly enough, bored. Worse, he’d begun dreaming of Aabirah, of her reaction when he’d trapped her again. He’d awoken sick to his stomach more than once, recalling the look on her face and the tears he’d heard her shedding.
‘You’re a disgusting person,’ Daaem thought, looking at himself in the mirror. ‘Couldn’t do the right thing, not even once. Couldn’t not mess everything up. You’re pathetic.’
He banged his head against the wall, trying to get the noise to stop. “Shut up, shut up, shut up,” he whispered over and over again. “Just shut up!”
He needed it to stop. He had to make it stop. And he knew exactly how.
Alcohol would dull everything. And now that he didn’t need to be at work, it didn’t matter that he wouldn’t be able to think straight. In fact, it might be better.
Aabirah was getting increasingly twitchy as the days went by. Qasim hadn’t contacted her again and the guard he’d promised to send to her had never materialized. She’d stopped going for walks around the estate, terrified that she’d be grabbed by someone the second she stepped foot out of the house and the cabin fever was starting to get to her.
She hadn’t been sleeping either, snapping back to full awareness every time she heard a strange sound and haunted by nightmares whenever she did manage to drop off.
She’d toyed with the idea of talking to Daaem’s father before ultimately dismissing it. She couldn’t imagine actually going through with telling Ameer her problems, no matter how appealing it was to daydream about it.
But she needed help. She needed to talk to someone before she lost her mind and the only other person she had was Daaem. She didn’t know if he’d even bother to help but she needed to try something before she lost her mind.
She resolved to call him, giving herself a mental deadline.
If nothing else, he’d probably want to protect a 5 million dollar investment, she thought, with a purse of her lips.
If not… well, she wouldn’t think about that just yet.
It had worked, for the most part. Daaem had managed to find a balance of over the counter medication mixed with alcohol that put him out and left him in too much of a daze to think straight. He’d spent two weeks in a happy haze, barely able to tell one day from the next.
Today, his happy buzz had been ripped away by a visit from his father. Ameer had looked disgusted with him, as he always did but for once, the look didn’t cut Daaem. He’d barely noticed his father’s presence until Ameer walked right up to him and shook him.
Now, he was sobering up, present enough to feel mortified at being caught in such a state and slightly horrified at what the consequences would be. Ameer Shaik was not a doting parent – he would want answers and once he’d gotten them, Daaem would be ripped to shreds. He stood outside what had once been his own office, feeling like a schoolboy about to be lectured.
This, at least, he knew how to do. He had more than enough experience being scolded. This, he wouldn’t mess up.
But there was no yelling. His faults weren’t even mentioned.
His father sat examining him for the longest time before finally asking a single question.
“What are you running from?”
Daaem’s head snapped up. “What did you just say?”
“What is it?” Ameer asked insistently. “Tell me, maybe I can help.”
“Aabirah,” Daaem admitted, before clamming up again.
“Oh, Daaem. You need to fix things with her. You’ve been going off the rails ever since her father was arrested and she’s been sounding awful on the phone ever since. You need to go be with her,” Ameer instructed. “I’ll get Emma to arrange your travelling details.”
“No,” Daaem shook his head immediately, wide eyed. There was no way he could face Aabirah, no way he could look at her and not feel disgusted by himself. “I can’t, I won’t.”
“Then you’ll need to come back to work,” Ameer said flatly. “You choose, Daaem. I will run things only so long as you’re on your mother’s estate with Aabirah. The second you decide to come back to the city, I will step down once again.”
“You’re threatening me?” Daaem asked, incredulous.
“Yes, I am. And you know full well that my threats aren’t empty.”
Daaem’s head pounded as he tried to find a way out. Nothing presented itself and a few moments later, he nodded. “Fine. I’ll go.”