He had to leave the estate, Daaem realized in a moment of clarity. He couldn’t stay here, surrounded by bad memories and constantly under threat. He needed to go back to the city. A few weeks of a break hadn’t fixed him, not by a long shot. But, Daaem was adapting, learning to function on less sleep and getting used to being woken at night with the blood pounding in his ears.
He left in the middle of the day after calling Emma and demanding that she arrange everything immediately and reached home just after nightfall.
The familiar apartment immediately put him at ease. Beyond Anna, no one else even had access to the place. It was all his.
Daaem slept easily that night for once, safe from guilt and fear. His dreams were happy ones, domestic things of him and a tiny, beautiful woman in different times and places. The one common denominator was the pure, unadulterated joy he felt in every single one.
He knew, in these dreams, that he was in the right place with the right person. It was heady for Daaem. He’d felt out of place for so long that the sheer rightness had him mourning the loss of it when he opened his eyes.
He lay in bed for a few moments, trying to get back the tranquility of his dreams. If he lay quiet and still for long enough, he found himself hoping childishly, perhaps he could go back.
As he shut his eyes, the fuzzy quality of the dreams began to clear and one of his particular favourites flashed brightly before his still shut eyes.
Daaem’s eyes flew open in horror and he clutched at his chest, trying to alleviate the tightness that had suddenly cropped up.
The woman in his dreams, the beautiful one that he’d been fantasizing and mooning over… It had been Aabirah!
His relaxed mood shattered, Daaem threw himself into the shower, trying to drown out any memory of his dreams. They were impossible fantasies he knew, for the couple in them were besotted with one another.
Freshly showered and ready to confront the day, Daaem looked at the clock on his bedside table. It was only seven but his father would most likely already be in the office. Daaem didn’t know if Ameer was aware he’d returned but he wasn’t going to hide away in the apartment out of fear.
He’d go into work and maybe they could discuss a handover like civilized human beings.
Stranger things had happened.
Or not, Daaem thought irritably fifteen minutes later.
He’d spent the past five minutes being examined by Ameer and any attempt he’d made to talk about work had been ignored.
Finally fed up, he stopped hinting. “Ignoring me is childish, you know? Just answer the question – when are you handing back over to me?”
Daaem crossed his arms. “What?” he asked irritably. “Now what’s the problem?”
“I’m not sure that I’m willing to hand over to you right now, Daaem.”
Daaem took a deep breath. “Why not?” he asked in a controlled voice. “What’s changed?”
“I’m worried about you, son. I don’t like how hasty you’re being. It makes me worry about your mental state. Not to mention, it makes the company look unstable.”
“The company will recover. And this is easy enough to spin as me taking time out to get my head back on straight – that’s supposed to be a good mental health move, not a bad one.”
“That only counts if you actually work on your mental health,” Ameer said pointedly.
“I’m fine,” Daaem snapped, losing patience. “Just give me back my company!”
“Why do you want it?” Ameer asked calmly.
“What?” Daaem furrowed his brow in confusion. “Because it’s mine!”
“That wasn’t enough to make you want to keep it less than a month ago. Daaem, you insisted that I take the company from you and now, suddenly, you want it back. What is going on?”
“I wasn’t in good shape back then. I couldn’t work. Now I’m better and I can work.”
Ameer looked critically at him. “You are better than you were,” he agreed. “But that’s not saying much. I’d feel much better if we didn’t rush this.”
“So what do you want to do instead?” Daaem asked, trying to mask his worry. He had a feeling he knew where this was going…
“I think it would be best if we worked together for a few months to get everything back in order before I step down again,” Ameer said.
He’d been right. Daaem fought down his fury. “No,” he said calmly. “You and I could never work together and we both know it.”
Ameer sighed. “If you’re going to be obstinate about it from the beginning, then yes, it will fail.”
“I don’t see the point in overcomplicating our lives. I know this won’t work,” Daaem snapped.
“Try it anyway,” Ameer said coolly. “I am not giving you back the company while you’re in this state, Daaem, you’ll run it into the ground.”
“For how long is this going to be? This supposed partnership?” he asked suspiciously.
“I haven’t decided yet,” Ameer admitted.
“Of course you get to decide,” Daaem rolled his eyes.
“You don’t even want it to happen, of course I’m not letting you call the shots,” Ameer said irritably.
Daaem scowled. “And what happens when you decide you don’t want to hand things back over? Am I supposed to work under you my entire life?” Panic welled within him at the thought of once again being subjected to Ameer Shaik’s particular brand of scrutiny. He wouldn’t survive that. He knew he wouldn’t.
“Daaem, I gave you the company the first time around! Stop behaving like I’m trying to take away your favourite toy – I’m not. This is what’s best, both for you and the company. And I will give it back. I have no interest in working myself to the bone at my age.”
“Fine,” Daaem gave in, knowing he was beaten.