Chapter Forty Two
Daaem needed a plan. A good one. Aabirah had every reason in the world to hate him and he was about to ask her for forgiveness. He wouldn’t blame her if she slapped him and told him to take a hike.
Anxiously, he grabbed his cellphone and texted Adam.
‘This was a terrible idea.’
‘It’ll be fine.’ Daaem could practically hear the sigh. His phone beeped again.
‘I’ve told you so fifteen separate times. Take a deep breath already.’
Daaem had taken several. They weren’t helping.
“Mr. Shaik? We’re here.”
Daaem took yet another deep breath. He’d let Holly know he was coming so Aabirah surely knew too. Would she be waiting outside or hiding somewhere in the house?
The latter, it seemed. Daaem saw no sign of Aabirah. When he asked Holly, he was informed that she’d asked to take her meals in her room.
It stung, despite Daaem having expected it.
Undaunted, he asked Holly to send a message to Aabirah, asking her to meet him that evening to talk.
Holly came back looking uncomfortable. “I’m sorry, sir, but Mrs. Shaik is feeling unwell. She asked me to make her excuses to you.”
“Is she alright? Does she need a doctor?” Daaem asked worriedly. At the sympathetic look on Holly’s face, he winced.
“Oh. Right, thank you Holly.”
“Do you need anything else, Mr. Shaik?” the housekeeper asked kindly.
“No, nothing Holly. You can go.”
Holly nodded. “I’m glad to see you’re feeling better, sir.”
Daaem blinked in surprise. “Thank you,” he said, startled but pleased.
Aabirah fumed as she sat in her bedroom. Why on Earth had Daaem had to come back to the estate? Didn’t he hate it? For someone who professed to despise the place, he was spending a ridiculous amount of time here.
The rational part of Aabirah’s mind reminded her that the estate belonged to Daaem and he could come and go as he pleased. Hell, he could even evict her if ever she got too annoying. She thought worriedly about the brusque way she’d declined his request and worry pooled in her belly.
Irritably, she shook it off. Hadn’t she sworn to stop behaving like a doormat? She needed to get a grip! She was losing it.
A distraction would help but she was too scattered to read. Aabirah caught sight of the journal tucked away and lunged for it. Maybe writing would help her clear her mind.
For four days, Daaem waited for Aabirah to join him for a meal. By the end of the first day, it was obvious she wasn’t planning to come down but he waited anyway. During the rest of the days, he roamed the estate, hoping to run into her. He knew he was being ridiculous, that it would be so easy to just go up to her bedroom and knock on the door… but he didn’t.
Partly because he didn’t want the door slammed in his face but also because he didn’t want to ambush her.
By the end of the fourth day, he’d gotten desperate and had resolved to just go knock on her door. Surely, she would at least hear him out?
But he’d never get to know. He caught Aabirah coming into the foyer, clearly returning from a walk. Daaem hurried down to meet her.
“Hey,” he started, smiling nervously. “Do you have a minute?”
She nodded silently.
Daaem took a deep breath. “I wanted to apologize,” he started. “For… a lot of things. I’ve been pretty awful to you for a long time and… I’m sorry.”
Aabirah stared at him.
Daaem shifted uncomfortably as he waited for her to say something. The awkwardness was palpable in the air.
“Thank you,” she whispered finally, darting away from him up the stairs.
Daaem tried not to feel disheartened. He’d reminded himself over and over again that he didn’t deserve forgiveness but he’d still hoped. And it was still hard to come face to face with the fact that he’d been awful.
That night, Aabirah joined him for supper. He hid a grin behind his glass and smiled at her. “Hey.”
“Hi,” she smiled uncomfortably at him.
The meal was awkward and mostly silent but Daaem was too busy celebrating his progress to really notice.
Aabirah felt ridiculous. She didn’t know why she’d suddenly decided to come down to eat with Daaem… That was a lie. She did know why and she’d called herself ten different kinds of fool as she’d walked down the stairs. He’d been nice and she hadn’t been able to resist.
She was so starved for company that she was willing to eat with Daaem despite knowing full well that it was a terrible idea to get any closer to him than necessary. She should just keep taking her meals in her bedroom.
But she’d felt bad for Holly and she’d hoped that it would be fine – Daaem had actually apologized for something, which was more than he’d ever done before. She’d thought it couldn’t hurt.
But she could feel herself letting her guard down. And that was lethal.
Aabirah caught herself trying to start a conversation three separate times over the meal. The silence was unbearable! But she refused to be the one to break it. She wouldn’t reach out. She couldn’t.
She just couldn’t risk it again. She’d done it time and again, not only with Daaem, but with Qasim and her father… And she was done.
She refused to keep making excuses and tolerating bad behaviour.
Aabirah sighed in relief once the meal was over, springing up to leave.
“Good night,” Daaem called behind her.
‘Ignore it, ignore it!’ She couldn’t. Years of manners tutoring had rendered her incapable.
She spun around. “Good night.”
Daaem smiled at her and she groaned internally. “I – bye,” she stuttered out, fleeing.
Her cheeks were still flaming red when she shut the door to her bedroom. ‘He had no business being that attractive,’ she thought crossly.