Chapter Twenty Seven
Hands grabbed her and Aabirah screamed. Tears sprung to her eyes and her heart began to pound in her ears.
For the first time in weeks, she’d decided to venture foot outside, sick and tired of being cooped up in the house.
She should have just stayed inside.
Hysterically, she wondered whether anyone would even notice she’d been taken before night. Holly expected her to be out all day, had handed her a picnic basket filled with food before she left, and there was no one else to wonder at her whereabouts.
Aabirah hadn’t even brought her cellphone with her, so used to not needing it on hand any more because no one phoned her.
She twisted and kicked in vain, trying to make her captor drop her. Finally, she made contact with something soft and he let go of her with a curse, dropping her hard on the ground.
Aabirah scrambled to her feet, scanning the ground for a weapon. What was she going to do? She didn’t know how to fight! Was she going to disappear here, without anyone knowing?
“HEY!” Aabirah jerked in shock. In her fear, she hadn’t even noticed herself being grabbed again. Tears made her vision blurry and she blinked frantically, trying to clear her eyes.
“Calm down, already. I’m not going to hurt you!”
“W-why did you grab me then?” Aabirah asked in a shaky voice.
“If I let you go, are you going to run?” the man asked.
Aabirah shook her head immediately.
“I don’t want to have to chase you,” he warned her.
“I w-won’t run,” she promised.
“Okay, I’m putting you down.” Slowly, she was lowered, the hands still keeping hold of her until she got her balance before finally letting go.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” the man said. He had his hands up in front of him and he’d taken several steps back from her.
“What do you want? Why did you grab me?” Aabirah demanded. She sniffed and brushed her hands over her cheeks, trying to regain her composure.
“Qasim sent me. He said he’d told you he was going to send someone. Do you remember me? I was one of your father’s guards.”
Aabirah examined the strange man’s face. He looked vaguely familiar but she’d never paid much attention to the constantly rotating guards and she couldn’t be sure that she recognized him.
“I don’t remember you,” Aabirah told him. “And Qasim told me he was sending me a guard almost a month ago. If you’re really him, why did it take you so long to find me?”
“You haven’t left the house. At all. I’ve been waiting for a chance to grab you for a while now but you haven’t come outside at all. That was actually pretty smart of you – the house is pretty well-protected. I couldn’t have gotten in there without a lot of work.”
As the man talked, Aabirah tried to remember him. He hadn’t tried to hurt her and he seemed to know Qasim. But did that mean she could trust him?
“Call Qasim,” she told him. “I want to hear it from him.”
“I can’t. Qasim’s made sure no one knows where he is, not even me. I don’t know how to contact him – he got rid of the number he used to call me. Look, we’ve spoken to each other before. Um, the last time was just before you got married. I took you up to your room and you yelled at me a bunch.”
Aabirah thought hard. She vaguely remembered a guard talking to her the day her father had told her she’d be marrying Daaem. Her memories of that time were fuzzy – she’d been sedated for much of it.
What had the guard’s name been? Something with a J. James? Jack? Jake! Aabirah was sure of it, the guard’s name had been Jake.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
Aabirah relaxed visibly. The tension drained from her frame and she sat hard on the ground. “I believe you,” she said unnecessarily.
“Good.” Jake sat down awkwardly opposite her, folding up his big frame. “You need to find a way to get me into the house with you. I’m pretty ineffective as a guard if I’m not even near enough to hear you scream while you’re in the house.”
“How do I do that?”
“Hire me,” Jake said plainly.
“The estate already has a security force. The guards are all part of one company.”
“I know,” Jake nodded. “I tried to get a job there but they’re not hiring right now. You need to get your husband to hire me privately. Tell him you want a dedicated guard.”
“Daaem doesn’t know anything about you,” Aabirah pointed out. “He’s not going to just let me bring a stranger in.”
“I know who you need to watch out for better than any of your other security, I worked for your father while he was doing business with these guys, I’ll be able to recognize them. Your husband’s a pretty smart guy, he’ll understand that. And your brother trusted me enough to put your safety in my hands.”
“That’s not much of an endorsement,” Aabirah muttered. “Qasim didn’t tell me anything beyond that I was in danger. Danger of what? What exactly is going on?”
“I don’t know everything,” Jake said slowly. “But what I do know is that your father double-crossed some nasty people a few years ago. And once he’d realized they were dangerous, it was too late to just give them back their money – they wanted revenge for being fooled. Instead of going to the police, he chose to purchase protection from some other nasty people which is why you’ve all been safe so far. But he started running out of money and he’s been doing some pretty crazy things to amass funds. From what I can tell, his plan was to steal enough over the past year that he and your brother would be able to set themselves up with new identities.”