Chapter Twenty Nine
Daaem knew he was being an ass. He’d known it while he was ignoring Aabirah knocking at his door, while he’d feigned disinterest in her problem and while he’d slammed a door in her face.
He especially knew it now, standing behind the door and listening to her cry outside. The decent thing to do would be to go to her and comfort her or, at least, to hire the damned bodyguard she’d asked for.
He couldn’t. He couldn’t be the one to help her with her problems. He was already a villain in her mind and he was perfectly fine with that.
Really. He was.
He had to be.
If he begun to make an effort now, she would soon come to expect things from him. And Daaem knew himself well enough to know that he couldn’t meet her expectations. He wouldn’t let her go. He didn’t have it in him.
She’d have to leave him if she wanted to go. But Daaem had an iron-clad contract stating that to leave, she would have to pay him back – unless he let her go.
If she left by herself, he would let her go. It wasn’t impossible – Qasim could give her the money.
Daaem ignored the fact that Qasim hadn’t even paid for a bodyguard for his sister.
He’d trapped her. No matter how he tried to justify it to himself, he’d trapped her.
Aabirah sat hugging her knees. She’d texted Jake asking him to meet her again so that she could explain everything.
“I take it things didn’t go as planned,” the big man said, taking in her little huddle.
“Not exactly. He said no,” Aabirah said bluntly. “He was happy I was too afraid to leave the estate. Said he should send a thank you card to whoever’s making his job easier.”
“O-kay. You have some pretty awful men in your life,” Jake said unnecessarily.
“Now what?” Aabirah looked up expectantly.
“I keep doing what I’m doing while you try to convince you husband to pull his head out of his nether regions.”
Aabirah laughed humorously. “Daaem is not going to change his mind. He’s an awful person with no compassion.”
“Maybe I’m missing something but why don’t you leave?” Jake asked curiously.
“Five million dollars,” Aabirah said simply.
“You don’t have to give it back.”
“Daaem won’t let me go without getting it back. And the police won’t help me because my father’s involved.”
“What are you talking about?”
“My father made sure the police wouldn’t help when I tried to go to them before I got married.”
“He’s in jail,” Jake pointed out.
“Yeah but -” Aabirah stopped short. “He’s in jail. He can’t stop me from leaving and he can’t make me marry someone else. He can’t stop me!”
A grin stretched across Aabirah’s face. “I can leave!”
“As long as your husband doesn’t stop you like your dad would’ve.”
Aabirah thought for a moment. “I don’t think he would. Daaem doesn’t even pay off journalists.”
“So you can leave. Congratulations. Where are you gonna go?”
Aabirah’s excitement faded. “I – I don’t know. I don’t really have anywhere to go. I’d need to get a job, wouldn’t I?”
Jake snorted. “You really are a spoilt little rich girl. You’ll need a job, you’ll need a place to stay and you’ll need really good security as long as you’re being hunted by criminals.”
“I forgot about that,” Aabirah admitted. “It’s starting to sound like I’m better off here.”
“You are,” Jake said bluntly. “At least now you get it too.”
“That was cruel,” Aabirah said softly.
“It was effective too,” Jake was unrepentant. Catching sight of the despair on Aabirah’s face, he sighed. “Look, if you’re really that miserable, you could leave. It’s not that hard to set up another identity for you like we did for Qasim. It’s not too expensive either if you’re willing to live like a normal person, not a princess.”
“I am,” Aabirah said immediately.
“Right. But, you won’t be anywhere near as defended. Your best bet for staying safe is to stay right here. Is getting away from this husband of your worth risking your safety?”
“No,” Aabirah admitted. “It’s not that bad – he avoids me most of the time. Jake, you never gave me a proper answer last time – how long is this going to go on for?”
Jake shrugged. “Months? Years? It depends.”
Aabirah groaned. “On what?” she asked grumpily.
“On how long it takes these guys to focus on something else. The next gang war or another debtor with a bigger price tag attached to his neck.”
“That’s really not helpful, you know.”
“Imagine how I feel! I took on a job without any kind of end date, out of the kindness of my heart and I get a high-maintenance princess whining at me!”
“It’s not fair,” Aabirah muttered.
“Well, sweetheart, life ain’t fair. You get what you get and you work to make it work.”
A thought struck Aabirah. “Where are you staying?” she asked Jake.
“In a tent. You living in the middle of nowhere is pretty convenient – I don’t have to rent. Your husband doesn’t own the entire forest, some of it is government owned and his security doesn’t patrol that area. I’m using a patch of it for myself.”
“It’s not trespassing,” he added at the disgusted look on Aabirah’s face.
“You live in a tent? What do you eat?”
Jake burst out laughing. “Bugs. Big, crawly bugs. I have a car, I go hunt at the grocery store.”
“There’s a grocery store around here?” Aabirah asked curiously.
“Yeah, it’s like a thirty minute drive to the nearest town.”
Aabirah was fascinated. “I thought we were in the middle of nowhere.”
“You are, a bit.” An alarm beeped and Jake got to his feet. “I need to leave now,” he informed Aabirah. “It’s easiest to slip through security in the next few minutes than any other time of day. You should probably get that fixed, actually.”
Aabirah watched the tall figure disappear before getting to her feet and making her way back inside.