Chapter Fifty Nine
Aabirah stared down at Iman where the other woman crouched in front of her. “I can’t,” she whispered, years of manners warring with her own desires. She wanted to. She wanted to accept Iman’s offer and let the other woman take care of her.
‘You can’t intrude! Don’t be such a fucking burden!’ Mehmood Amal’s voice bellowed in her mind.
Iman sighed. “Alright,” she agreed reluctantly. A mischievous glint entered her eyes. “Of course, it would have been much easier for me to be able to go home, but if you can’t bear it… It’s no matter,” she hurried to assure Aabirah. “I don’t mind staying here if that’s easier for you.”
Aabirah’s mouth fell open. “You can’t stay here!” she protested.
“I’m not leaving you on your own,” Iman said pleasantly. “Either we can stay here or you can come home with me, where there are guards – and proper beds – or I can stay here with you.”
Aabirah groped for a response to this. “But you can’t!” was all that came out.
“Why not?” Iman asked, tilting her head to the side.
“Because! Because it’s not fair!”
“Aabirah, I want to stay with you. You’re in no condition to be alone.”
She was right. Aabirah conceded reluctantly. “But we’re not staying here! There’s nowhere for you to sleep.”
“We’ll just have to go home then,” Iman commented.
“Yes,” Aabirah agreed. A moment later, her head snapped up and she stared at Iman.
“Yes?” The other woman raised an eyebrow inquiringly.
“You tricked me!” Aabirah cried.
“Hmm, I suppose I did,” Iman agreed, unruffled.
There was a poorly concealed snort and both women whirled around to see Jake. His cheeks were red with the effort it took to suppress his laughter.
“It’s not funny!” Aabirah protested. “It’s not!” she repeated as Jake snorted a second time.
“I thought you were sweet,” she grumbled at Iman, crossing her arms in a sulk.
“I can’t imagine where you got such an idea from,” Iman said serenely before smirking.
That was it. Jake lost the battle with his laughter. “Where the heck did you find this one?” he asked Aabirah, amused.
“Daaem introduced me,” Aabirah murmured, smiling herself.
Thinking of Daaem made her think of Qasim and the smile on her face froze. She’d forgotten. For the past several hours, she’d forgotten that her brother was dead.
Guilt made her eyes begin to prick and she widened them, staring determinedly at a spot on the wall. She wouldn’t cry. Not again.
She would not cry!
It felt like there were hundreds of needles in her face. Her jaw ached from the effort it took to keep it clenched.
When Aabirah’s vision began to blur, she gave in and bolted for her bedroom.
She heard a sigh behind her and the murmur of conversation before the door shut and she gave in to her emotions yet again.
When Aabirah came back out a little while later, Iman sat on her own, focused on her phone. She looked up when she heard Aabirah’s footsteps and smiled at her. “Are you feeling better?”
Aabirah shook her head. She felt awful and was in no mood to pretend otherwise. “Where’s Jake?” she asked, concerned when she couldn’t find him.
“He left a while ago,” Iman told her. “I assume he’s checking to make sure I’m not lying or a threat to you. He’s very dedicated,” she complimented.
Aabirah frowned and apologized hurriedly. “I don’t know why he’s so suspicious of you,” she complained.
Iman opened her mouth to answer and shook her head when she heard a key in the lock. “Why don’t we ask him?” she suggested, looking directly at Jake.
“Ask me what?”
“Why don’t you trust me?” Iman asked without preamble.
“I don’t have any reason to,” Jake said lightly.
Iman nodded, apparently satisfied.
Aabirah spluttered. “Why do you need a reason?”
“Because,” Jake said patiently, looking at her like she was particularly dumb. “That’s my job. A strange woman shows up and seems to have solved all your problems? I’m suspicious. To me, that sounds more like a trap to kill you without a fuss than a good thing.”
Aabirah’s mouth fell open in shock.
“Like I said,” Iman smiled. “He’s dedicated. You’re doing a pretty good job,” she complimented Jake.
“Thanks,” he said drily.
“Have you finished making inquiries?” Iman asked politely.
“Yeah,” Jake nodded.
“And are you satisfied?”
Jake nodded again. “I still don’t trust you but you’re no danger to Aabirah.”
Iman smiled, pleased.
Aabirah looked between the two of them, thoroughly confused. “I don’t understand,” she announced to the room at large.
Both Iman and Jake smiled at her the same way – as though she was a particularly amusing child.
Aabirah sighed and shook her head. “Never mind,” she muttered.
Jake grinned. “Start packing,” he told her. “It’s time to go.”
Emma poked her head into Daaem’s office. “Sir, Mr. Cassim is here.”
Daaem blinked and looked at his watch. “He’s early.”
“Should I ask him to wait, sir?”
“No, no, that’s okay. Is there anything urgent that needs to be dealt with today?”
Emma shook her head. “No, sir. You’re ahead of schedule, actually.”
Daaem nodded, pleased. “I’m leaving early then,” he informed his assistant, shutting down his laptop.
He found Adam pacing outside his office, a scowl on his face.
“What’s wrong?” Daaem asked, automatically concerned. He’d rarely seen Adam in such a bad mood.
“Iman’s with Aabirah,” Adam told him. “It’s stressful.”
Daaem’s eyes widened in alarm. “I thought you said she was safe?” he asked, his voice going embarrassingly high.
Adam glanced over at him and sighed. “She is.” He glanced away, colour coming to his cheeks. “I’m… being irrational.”
Daaem began to calm down again. “Oh.” A thought occurred to him and he frowned. “Why is Iman with her?”
Adam rolled his eyes. “She insisted that Aabirah needed her,” he said, exasperated. “Why she couldn’t wait a few weeks, I don’t know.”
Daaem agreed with Iman. Aabirah’s brother had been murdered – of course she’d need people around her. “Where is she, again?” he asked, trying to keep his voice casual.
“No,” Adam said grumpily.
“You’re like a mule,” Daaem snapped, exasperated.
“Daaem, she’s fine! And…” Adam trailed off.
“What?” Daaem demanded.
“She’s coming back. Iman – I don’t know what she did, but she convinced Aabirah to come back,” Adam admitted.
“Oh,” Daaem said dumbly. She was coming back. A bubble of joy began to bloom in his chest and a smile stretched his cheeks.
Adam shook his head. “Lovesick,” he teased lightly.
Daaem didn’t bother to deny it. “Yeah,” he agreed ruefully.
“Don’t be overbearing,” Adam advised him, clapping a hand on his shoulder. “And tonight, you’re coming with me. My wife is out of town and I’m bored. It’s your job to amuse me.”
“You could just say that you’re lonely, you know?”
“I am not lonely!”