Chapter Forty Seven
Daaem had no idea what had happened to Aabirah after her friend had come to visit but he couldn’t deny that he liked the change. She was less hesitant with him and they’d even shared a laugh together that morning.
He felt ridiculously foolish celebrating something so simple but it truly was a milestone, compared to how stand-offish she’d been for the past few weeks. Daaem didn’t know what he would have done had things stayed as stilted and awkward as they’d been in the beginning.
Despite his best intentions, however, he was beginning to get frustrated. He’d never had to fight for a woman’s affections before. They’d always happily fallen at his feet, content to worship his money and covet his infamy. The closest thing Daaem had to experience in this arena was the hours he’d spent trying to earn his father’s approval which was not applicable in this case – at all.
He knew he had to swallow his pride and ask for advice, but even knowing that it was necessary, it still rankled. And who was he meant to ask anyway? He couldn’t keep running to Adam for help with everything, that was ridiculous. And his father… Ameer would laugh himself sick.
But Daaem truly did not know what he was doing. And he needed help or he was going to mess up again. He was under no illusions that he had any great skill – he’d needed Adam and Holly coaching him to get this far and he’d barely gotten anywhere.
He was hopeless, he thought miserably, feeling the thought settle like a heavy weight on his shoulders. How had he walked around for so long thinking anything else, he couldn’t fathom.
Daaem’s cellphone rang, startling him, and he answered it quickly. “Hello?”
“Are you alright?” was the immediate question from the other side of the line. Daaem could picture Ameer frowning suspiciously.
“I’m fine,” he said dismissively, in no mood to explain his train of thought to his father. “Why are you calling so late?”
Ameer sighed. “Manners, Daaem,” he rebuked. “I’m calling to let you know that I want to come and visit you. I’ll be arriving tomorrow at 3PM and staying until Monday morning.”
“Why so suddenly?” Daaem asked suspiciously.
Ameer sighed. “I have nefarious plans,” he said drily.
“I know that,” Daaem said, amused despite himself.
“I miss you, you infuriating child. Though God knows why, you’re a pest!”
Daaem blinked in shock, lowering his phone and staring at it. Had Ameer just…?
“Daaem?” came his father’s tinny voice. “Can you hear me?”
“Yeah,” Daaem said roughly. “Yeah I can.”
“What happened?” Ameer asked, concerned.
“Nothing,” Daaem shook off his shock. “You’re arriving tomorrow, you said?”
“Yes,” Ameer confirmed. “Tomorrow afternoon. Answer my question.”
“Nothing happened,” Daaem repeated, exasperated. He was not going to admit that hearing his father admit to missing him had caused him to short-circuit.
Ameer sighed and muttered about recalcitrant children. Daaem ignored him.
“I have to go,” he said once his father had wound down. “Bye.”
“You won’t be able to avoid me tomorrow,” Ameer warned direly before ending the call.
Yes he could, Daaem thought obstinately. He wouldn’t, probably. But he could, if he wanted to.
“Stop dodging me, answer your phone!”
Daaem looked down at the message and scowled. He turned away, leaving his phone to vibrate crankily, like an angry bug. He wasn’t dodging Adam, he was busy.
He dumped the phone in a drawer and smirked. There, peace and quiet.
By the time Holly came into his office fifteen minutes later, holding one of the landlines in her hands, he’d completely forgotten that he was avoiding… that he was busy, and he answered without a second thought.
“Don’t ignore my calls!” Adam yelled furiously.
Daaem winced and held the phone away from his ear, ignoring the rant. “I was busy,” he said coolly.
“Busy getting lost inside your own head and convincing yourself you’re the scum of the earth again, I know,” Adam agreed in a sickly-sweet tone. “Stop it, Daaem! Right now.”
“I wasn’t -” Daaem protested.
“Yeah, you were,” Adam said irritably. “You’ve been doing it for the past few days now and I’ve been to busy to notice it and head it off like I should’ve done.”
“You’re not my minder,” Daaem felt compelled to point out.
“No, I’m your friend and I’m trying to make sure you don’t start spiralling again.”
“I’m not that weak,” Daaem growled, offended.
“Nobody said you were weak. But you have bad habits and you’re still getting rid of them.”
Daaem scowled, refusing to admit defeat. “I would’ve been fine!”
“For now,” Adam agreed. “But heading you off before you can twist yourself into knots is a lot easier than untangling you after the fact.”
Daaem began to grind his teeth, despising the overbearing man on the other side of the phone. “Is there anything else?” he asked snippily. “Maybe you want to tuck me into bed and sing me a lullaby too since I’m incapable of taking care of myself despite being a grown man.”
“What’s wrong?” Adam asked. “You’re more prickly than you should be.”
Daaem threw the phone at the wall.
A few moments later, he heard the buzz of his cellphone starting to ring again and he barely resisted the urge to fling that against the wall as well.
Could he not be left alone for even one moment? He knew that he’d royally messed up and that he couldn’t be trusted to handle his life on his own. He knew. Could they not stop ramming it down his throat for one blasted minute?!
Suppressing frustrated tears, he buried his face in his hands and took a deep breath, already feeling ashamed of himself. He knew Adam was trying to help and he knew his father was trying to make up for years of neglect. He knew he was being ungrateful but he couldn’t help it.
The constant check ups and admonishments were grating on his nerves, so much so that he was constantly on edge and added to the fact that he felt constantly wrong-footed no matter what he did around Aabirah… Daaem couldn’t take it any longer. He needed to breathe.