Chapter Fifty Two
She was gone. Aabirah was gone.
He should have known something was wrong. She’d been acting so strangely… but he’d chalked it up to their damned prenup and the disaster her finding out about it had been. But it had been something more. Daaem had woken up with a sinking feeling in his gut that he couldn’t explain up until he’d been standing in front of her bedroom door, waiting to know why she hadn’t come down to breakfast and whether or not she was okay.
The room was still full of her things but there were notable differences. Her laptop had disappeared, as had the leather bound book she kept on her bedside table. She’d left a letter for him that he hadn’t yet plucked up the courage to open it.
Daaem knew he needed help, knew that in this moment, he was closer to grabbing a knife and carving new lines into his wrists that he’d ever gotten since the first time. He’d begun to accept that Aabirah was important to him but he could never have imagined just how much it would hurt to have her gone.
He felt physically sick, as though he’d been sucker punched. But unlike that pain, this hurt wasn’t dulling as time ticked its way past. This hurt just as much now, hours later, as it had the second he’d been struck cold with the realization that she was gone.
He knew she’d left willingly – there was a note and she’d packed her things. Yet, childishly, his mind tried to pretend that she’d been forced, that the people she’d been afraid of had somehow gotten to her and she needed his saving.
God, how twisted was he? He’d rather that she was in danger, possibly hurting, than accept the plain fact that the woman he – that she had left him of her own free will. She’d been right to leave him, he was a messed up wreck.
The front door opened, the heavy sound audible from the little alcove he’d curled himself up in and Daaem lifted his head, ridiculously hopeful. Let it be her. Let her have changed her mind. Let her have come back.
Holly came up to him with a sympathetic look on her face. “Your guest is here, Mr. Shaik,” she told him gently. “Will you come and meet him or shall I bring him here?”
Daaem stared at her in confusion. “What guest?” he asked scratchily. “I don’t have any guests coming.”
“A Mr. Adam Cassim, sir.”
Adam? How had he known? Daaem hadn’t called him.
“I called him, sir,” Holly explained, catching sight of the befuddled look on Daaem’s face. “Will you come meet him?”
Daaem didn’t want to. He didn’t want to move from his cocoon. It was comfortable and warm and the thought of leaving it was daunting. He looked at Holly helplessly, trying to find the words to convey this without making himself look entirely pathetic.
Before he could try, she sighed sympathetically. “I’ll bring him here,” she said kindly, patting his cheek.
“Thank you,” Daaem whispered, relieved that she’d somehow understood. He tightened his arms around his knees and rested his chin on his lap, waiting with his eyes shut.
“Hey,” a soft voice said, shaking his shoulder gently. “Wake up.”
Daaem blinked fuzzily. He’d fallen asleep? He looked up, lost, and winced. His neck ached. And, he realized as he moved, the rest of him wasn’t much better.
“You picked the worst possible way to fall asleep,” Adam told him, amused. “Come on, you need to get into a proper bed.”
Daaem’s legs were numb. He wasn’t entirely sure they’d hold him up. He shook his head mutely at Adam, hoping it would make the other man go away.
No such luck. Adam looked at him expectantly. “Come on, let’s go. You can’t prefer a tiny window seat over a bed, your legs must be hating you.”
Daaem didn’t move. He shut his eyes. Maybe he could pretend to be asleep.
Adam sighed fondly. “Okay, come on. I’ll help.” Somehow he tugged and coaxed enough to get Daaem into a standing position. Daaem regretted it immediately. His legs hurt! A lot.
He leaned heavily against Adam. “My legs hurt,” he informed the other man.
“Yeah?” Adam grunted. “I’d never have guessed, with the way I’m having to carry you.”
“Well, they do,” Daaem said, slightly petulant.
Adam sighe, guiding Daaem up the stairs. “You’re a mess,” he said worriedly.
“I’ve always been a mess,” Daaem said sadly. “Is that why she left?”
“I don’t know why she left, Daaem. Only Aabirah knows that. But I don’t think it’s your fault.”
Daaem blinked. Adam was wrong. It was Daaem’s fault. It had to be. “I was awful to her,” he told Adam helpfully.
“I know, Daaem. I remember. We’ll talk about it after you’ve slept, okay?” Adam said soothingly.
“I slept last night,” Daaem blinked. “It’s only morning.”
“It’s the next morning, Daaem. You didn’t sleep last night, you slept the night before. Just take a quick nap, okay?” Adam bargained.
“Okay,” Daaem agreed, docile.
Daaem woke confused. Something was terribly wrong, his gut was telling him. He felt an urge to pull the covers over his head and refuse to join the real world. Instead, he opened his eyes and the memories came crashing back.
“She’s gone,” he said dully, remembering. She’d left him.
“Yeah, she is,” a voice agreed gently. “For three days now.”
Adam. Daaem remembered him arriving now. And, with a cringe, he remembered himself babbling everything that came into his head too.
“You didn’t have to come,” he said weakly. “You’re busy.”
“I’ve never had to come,” Adam said matter-of-factly. “I’m not doing this because I have to, Daaem. I’m doing it because I want to. I happen to care about you, God help me.”
Daaem ducked his head, trying to hide the blush that had sprung to his cheeks. He still wasn’t used to the easy way Adam announced his feelings though he’d had almost half a year to get used to it by now.
“Thanks,” he said instead of bothering to struggle with returning the sentiment. “For coming. I – I needed help. I still need help.”
“Did you try to-” Adam started worriedly, looking him over.
“No,” Daaem interrupted him. “I didn’t. I don’t want to. That’s why I need help.”
“Adam grinned fiercely. “That I help with,” he assured Daaem. “That we can do.”