Chapter Forty Three
Aabirah didn’t come down to breakfast the next morning. Holly told him that she’d eaten before he’d woken up. ‘One step forward, two steps back,’ Daaem thought irritably. “What time does she usually get up to eat?” he asked, determined not to miss her the next day.
“Very early, Mr. Shaik,” Holly told him, amused.
“How early?” Daaem persisted.
Ridiculously early. So early that Daaem was yawning every few seconds and was in grave danger of falling asleep on top of his pancakes. How could she wake up so early? It was still dark outside! Barely, but still.
“Mr. Shaik, you should go back to bed,” Holly advised him a few minutes later.
Lifting his head from where he’d pillowed it on his arms, Daaem scowled. “No,” he said, shaking his head. “I’m up already anyway. And I want to eat with Aabirah.”
Holly hesitated, pursing her lips.
“What?” Daaem asked.
“Have you considered that perhaps she doesn’t want to eat with you?” the housekeeper asked delicately.
“I know she doesn’t want to eat with me,” Daaem said morosely. “But what am I supposed to do? We’re never together at any other time and she doesn’t want anything to do with me. This is the only chance I have.”
“Maybe be a little less eager?”
“So don’t wake up two hours earlier than I usually would so I can catch her?” Daaem asked, trying not to laugh. He was being ridiculous and even he knew it.
“Maybe not,” Holly smiled.
“Fine, I’m going back to bed.” He stood and stretched.
He’d try again later. And maybe he’d only eat one meal in the dining room today…
When Aabirah ventured down for breakfast, Daaem was nowhere to be found. Unconsciously, her shoulders un-bunched.
“Mr. Shaik is still asleep,” Holly told her when she served Aabirah.
“Right,” Aabirah said happily, thankful that she’d started to make a habit of rising earlier.
“He’d like you to join him for supper,” Holly added.
“He asked me to join him?” Aabirah repeated warily.
“No,” Holly shook her head. “But he’d like if it you did nonetheless.”
Aabirah sighed. “I can’t,” she told Holly. “Please tell him that I won’t be able to.”
Holly nodded, not bothering to conceal the disappointed look on her face.
“It’s not my fault,” Aabirah defended herself. “He’s been so awful!”
“But he’s trying now. Is it worth it to be obstinate?”
Was it? Aabirah didn’t know.
“Is it worth it to not be?” she whispered.
“I can’t tell you that, Mrs. Shaik,” Holly said. “You have to decide it for yourself.”
She left Aabirah alone after that to ponder and chew her pancakes miserably.
That night, Aabirah hid in her bedroom and cursed herself for wanting to leave its safety. She pulled the covers over her head and tried to drop off to sleep, miserable and annoyed with herself.
After a ridiculous amount of tossing and turning, she got up and opened the door, not bothering to neaten herself up. She would eat with Daaem but she would not make herself look good for it.
He looked shocked to see her and had clearly almost finished his meal. Feeling foolish, Aabirah slid into her seat and eyed him. “You don’t have to wait for me,” she said, offering him the out.
Daaem shook his head. “I don’t mind. I’m not done yet anyway.”
Holly placed a full plate of food in front of her moments later and backed out of the room, smiling brilliantly. Aabirah suppressed a surge of annoyance and focused totally on eating.
She looked adorable, was Daaem’s first thought. Rumpled and blinking in annoyance at the bright lights, she was incredibly cute. She’d clearly been sleeping and had come down without bothering to make herself up.
Her hair was a messy nest that appealed oddly to him. It still looked ridiculously soft. She looked ridiculously soft and he had to suppress the urge to go up to her and hug her.
She was cute. And he wasn’t even ashamed to be a grown man thinking such mushy thoughts. What the hell had she done to him?
A month ago, the feelings would have terrified him and he would have lashed out. Now… he didn’t want to lash out again. He wanted to enjoy the meal with her. Something had clearly happened to him and he couldn’t bring himself to care.
He’d accepted, after a lot of yelling on Adam’s part, that he couldn’t control his emotions and that being afraid of them was stupid. But he’d never thought about it in the context of Aabirah before. He’d never thought that being afraid of caring for her was a bad idea before.
But it was. It was a lot more fun to just find her cute and adorable and enjoy it rather than worrying about becoming attached to her and frantically trying to find a way to cut away the ties he was beginning to form.
He’d accepted that he cared for her, Daaem realized. And living with the truth was a heck of a lot easier than living in denial.
Now if only he could make her hate him a little less…
Aabirah yawned miserably. She was exhausted but she couldn’t sleep. She’d spent half the night thinking about Daaem, puzzling over his behaviour and fretting over his possible motivations and she was now hopelessly confused and exhausted. She yawned again and huffed miserably.
She punched her pillows and grumbled for a few minutes before finally managing to drop off.
Aabirah’s dreams were filled were pleasant that night, filled with happy, domestic scenes and a sense of joy that followed her into the morning, causing her to wake up with a grin on her face.
She lay there, happily replaying a few of her favourite scenes and lazily enjoying the daydreams.
Moments later, she sat bolt upright and covered her face with her hands, having woken up enough to recognize her handsome dream stranger as the man who was sleeping in a bedroom at the other end of the house.
She had to get out of here before she completely lost the plot!