Chapter Seventy One
Aabirah looked up and smiled as Daaem entered the room. She made to get up but stopped when he held up a hand. “You look comfortable, don’t move.”
He seated himself next to her on the couch and dropped something in her lap.
Aabirah leaned her head on Daaem’s shoulder. “What’s this?” She lifted it.“My journal! How did you find it?”
“Holly,” Daaem explained. “She found it underneath the bed and assumed it was mine. It was in my office.”
“And I’ve been looking for it for three days,” Aabirah grumbled. “I should’ve complained to you earlier.”
“Maybe you should’ve chosen something less…” Daaem’s nose wrinkled as he tried to find a way to describe the book. “Dry,” he settled on finally.
“It does look exactly like a workbook,” Daaem pointed out.
Aabirah shrugged. “I didn’t know I’d keep writing,” she admitted. “This was the… sixth? Maybe seventh, I’m not sure. The sixth or seventh time I’d tried journalling. I was pretty sure it wouldn’t last.”
“I don’t know how you can do that anyway,” Daaem commented. “I can barely handle talking about my day, let alone writing the whole thing down.”
“That’s because your days are boring,” Aabirah grinned up at her husband.
“They’re not boring!” Daaem pretended offence. Then he grinned. “They’re very boring. At least, work is.”
“Flirt,” Aabirah chided. “Did you read it?” She indicated the journal.
“A little bit of the first page,” Daaem admitted. “Only a little, though.”
Aabirah held it out. “Wanna read the rest,” she offered.
Daaem grimaced. “I’ll pass.” He gave the book a resentful look.
“You don’t want to read my innermost thoughts and desires? Aren’t you curious?”
Daaem shook his head. “The first few lines were enough.”
Aabirah’s brow furrowed. “What did I write in here?”
“You don’t remember?”
She shook her head. “It was a long time ago.”
“Look,” Daaem invited.
When I was little, I always dreamed about the day my Prince would come and sweep me off my feet, rescuing me and taking me away to his palace.
Well, a Prince did come. There’s just one problem. He’s a demon prince and I hate his guts.
Aabirah dropped her journal with a gasp. “Oh my God,” she whispered, mortified. Her cheeks burned. How could she have forgotten? She’d started her journal furious with Daaem, angry at the world and generally in a bad mood.
“I’m sorry,” she said contritely. “You’re not a demon prince.”
“Glad to hear it,” Daaem told her, amused.
“I’m really sorry,” Aabirah said again, wrapping her arms around him. “I was… angry. God, I was so angry with you back then. It feels so strange now.”
Daaem dropped a kiss on her head. “I understand,” he said simply. “I was being pretty demon-like back then.”
“You weren’t that bad,” Aabirah denied. “You were awful, but not that bad.”
“There’s a scale?” Daaem laughed.
“Yep,” Aabirah agreed. “There’s a scale.”
“How does it work?” Daaem asked seriously, eyes dancing with amusement. “Are there different levels?”
“I have a standard for demon-like behaviour and everything else is measured against it,” Aabirah explained, playing along.
“Who’s the demon we’re all measured against?”
Aabirah looked away. “My father.”
The grin vanished from Daaem’s face. “Aabirah…” he sighed.
“Sorry. I ruined the mood, didn’t I?”
Daaem ignored the apology. “Have I mentioned that I dislike your father?”
“A few hundred times,” Aabirah quipped. “You were never as bad as he is. You’re no demon prince.”
“Thank God,” Daaem muttered. “Not that it’s much to be thankful for, but still…”
“He’s the most unrepentant man I’ve ever met!” Daaem was getting worked up.
“He’s miserable,” Aabirah reminded her husband, trying to calm him down. “He’s living unknown, with no power and on a budget.”
Daaem settled back into the couch. “Still. He had the nerve to phone you and demand money!”
Aabirah grimaced at the reminder. “Is it awful that I enjoyed that a little?”
Daaem looked puzzled so she elaborated. “He’d always made such a big deal out of any money he ever spent on me when I was a kid, it was nice to be the one to hold it over his head for once.”
“If it’s awful then we both are together. I think that’s hilarious.” There was a thread of laughter in Daaem’s voice.
Aabirah shifted closer to the fireplace. She contemplated the journal that she still held and flipped it open. Here was a way to fix it. She’d just begun to tear out the first page when Daaem’s hand covered hers.
“What are you doing?”
“Fixing it,” Aabirah said shortly.
“Why?” Daaem asked, keeping his hand in place.
“I – it’s not very nice?” Aabirah wasn’t entirely sure why she was destroying the pages. She thought for a moment and found an explanation. “I want you to read it. But I don’t want it to hurt you.”
Daaem nodded and pulled his hand back. “Leave them then.”
When Aabirah looked confused, he elaborated. “It wasn’t great reading that. But it’s how you felt then. Doesn’t that make it kind of important?”
“You’re right,” Aabirah agreed. “But I really want you to read this.”
“Then I’ll read it.” Daaem held out his hand.
Aabirah clutched the journal to her chest. “I don’t want it to make you sad.”
“I’ll live. Come on, give it to me.” It took a few more minutes of convincing but finally, Aabirah handed it over.
“Promise me you won’t let it upset you?” Aabirah ran her fingers over Daaem’s wrists. The first time she’d seen the remnants of the damage he’d done to himself, she’d burst into tears. Even now, months later, she worried when Daaem seemed especially unhappy.
“I’ll be fine,” he told her.
Aabirah just looked at him.
“Fine,” Daaem relented. “I promise.”
Aabirah smiled happily and began unfolding herself from her comfortable spot.
“Where are you going?” Daaem complained. “I was comfortable.”
“It’s freezing, I want a blanket. And my phone.”
Aabirah returned moments later, laden with things. “Here,” she handed him a cup. “Hot chocolate.”
“I don’t want any,” she told him, already curling up again. “Hand me my book.”
Daaem passed it over and settled back himself, feeling his eyes begin to droop. They should probably move, he thought idly.
An indeterminable amount of time later, he was awoken by Aabirah squealing. “What’s wrong?” he asked blearily. “Did you see a bug?”
She smacked him lightly on the arm. “I’m not that bad with bugs,” she said crossly. “Look.”
Daaem took the phone that was being held out to him, blinking to help his eyes focus.
Jake had sent a message. Daaem felt a brief flare of jealousy. Why was she squealing about hearing from the blond tank?
“Jake’s alive. Great,” he said, deadpan.
Aabirah sighed. “Did you even read the message?”
“No,” Daaem admitted. Seeing the name had been enough to irritate him.
“He wants to come visit,” Aabirah explained.
“Great,” Daaem said again. He liked Jake, really he did. But the guy had helped his wife leave the country (and him!). Daaem was allowed to be a little prickly, wasn’t he?
Aabirah sighed again. “He asked about Holly.”
“Oh?” What did that have to do with anything?
“He called her pretty.”
“Oh!” Understanding came quickly. He thought of the kindly housekeeper. They would look good together, Daaem mused. Then he groaned. “No, Aabirah!”
“He can’t come?” she asked, hurt.
“He can come,” Daaem assured her. “But,” he added, with emphasis. “You are not matchmaking.”
Aabirah pouted, crossing her arms. “But they’d be wonderful together,” she complained.
“Then let them figure that out. Please?”
“Fine,” Aabirah relented. “I won’t interfere. Much.”
Daaem laughed despite himself. “I’ll take it.”
The next day, Aabirah took her journal back from Daaem. He hadn’t yet begun reading it. Instead, they’d spent half the night cuddling on the couch while she finished her book and he napped.
Aabirah paged through the book, marvelling silently at how many pages she’d filled. It was a thick book but she’d filled almost all of it already. There were less than ten pages left to finish it completely.
She took a pen from Daaem’s desk and began to write. She wouldn’t remove any of the pages – she’d agreed not to – but there was nothing to stop her from writing more in the book, was there?
Daaem would be reading all about just how she’d hated him when he begun. It was only fair that he read just as much about how she adored him before he was done.
For she did. She had fallen hopelessly in love with her husband, without meaning or even really wanting to.
Aabirah smoothed down the page, uncapped the pen and began to write.
I wanted a Prince to fall in love with me and take me to his palace.
And he did.