The Sheikh's Contract Fiancee (Almasi Sheikhs 1) - Page 34
“While I appreciate your attempt to make the merger more appealing to my father by offering your daughter’s hand in marriage, I just want you to know she’s not yours to give away.” Imaad glanced down at Annabelle, who watched him with watery eyes. “I am, however, grateful that you tried. Because otherwise I wouldn’t have met your stunning daughter nor had this incredible opportunity.”
Annabelle’s brow creased, and she opened her mouth to respond at the same time someone stepped into the waiting room. The doctor stood, still scrubbed out, his face mask pulled aside.
Annabelle bolted upright, her hands over her mouth.
“Annabelle Thomas?” The doctor smiled when Annabelle nodded. “I came to let you know your mother’s surgery is complete. She’s in recovery now. From the look of the growth, it was likely benign. The pathologist should have the official report within a couple days.” The surgeon offered a small smile before taking his leave.
Annabelle gasped, throwing her arms around Imaad. “Oh my God! This is the most amazing news!”
Imaad hugged her hard, pressing as much of her against him as he could, able to feel every ounce of her joy seeping into him. When they parted, Annabelle was crying. Her father was at her side, a hand on her shoulder.
“Birdy, let me go sit with her for a while.” The old man looked tender somehow. “I’ll let you two know when she’s awake.”
Annabelle nodded, and then slumped back into her seat. She watched him leave, an unreadable expression on her face.
“I think he’s still in love with her,” she said finally, her eyes still on the doorway he’d passed through. “After all these years.”
Imaad nodded, following her gaze; maybe he could see the same thing she did. “Not all love fits inside the convenient boxes we make for it. It seeps out, one way or another, in ways we least expect it.”
Annabelle sighed heavily, resting her head against his arm like raising a white flag of surrender. “God, you’re right. Why do you always have to be right?”
Four full days in New York City passed before Annabelle and Imaad prepared for their return flight to Parsabad. Between visiting her mom at all hours of the day, showing Imaad her apartment, visiting her favorite coffee shops with Marian, and teaching Imaad how to hail a cab in NoHo, she wasn’t sure if this was still an emergency health visit or some sort of Disneyland version of happily ever after.
She and Imaad acted like a couple, talked like a couple—and fucked like a couple. They actually made love, which she hadn’t dared say out loud yet, but still, the words were always there, staining the back of her mind. You love Imaad.
Marian wouldn’t shut up about him either. The constant stream of texts calling her out on their not-so-subtle lovey-dovey nature wasn’t helping her keep a level head. She’d already offered to be her maid of honor, which was certainly not helpful.
But the bliss cloud persisted, followed the two of them around like a stalker. Couldn’t shake it if she tried. And once they touched down in Parsabad, feeling as refreshed as if enjoying the aftermath of a spa getaway in Bali, Annabelle had the sense that things were somehow going to get even better.
Her father had smoothed things over with Imaad’s father. She wasn’t sure how he’d managed it, but she wouldn’t question it. Maybe he’d offered Marian’s hand in marriage now, Annabelle joked to Imaad. Probably one of his brothers was next. One merger marriage could very well lead to another, Imaad agreed.
In the moody office of Imaad’s father, the two of them strode toward his desk purposefully. Annabelle was ready to resume the merger, her mother was recovering, her father was a slightly reformed asshole, and with Imaad at her side, she felt like they could tackle this deal and a million more.
“You’re back.” His father looked pleased, despite his dry tone. “I’m happy everything went well.”
“So are we,” Imaad said, looking over at her. He paused, watching his father for a moment with hard eyes. “Perhaps now you’ll see I’m capable of making some decisions for myself.”
His father sighed, setting his pen down. “Son—”
“I want to make this clear,” Imaad said. “I have tirelessly supported you and your business and every little thing you ask of me. But I’ve realized recently that I need to stand up for what I believe in. And Annabelle helped me see this.” He glanced over at her, squeezing her hand a
gain. “I need to do things as I see fit. I’m twenty-six years old. I can make choices for myself. My way isn’t the wrong way…and your way isn’t the only right way.”
His father clenched his jaw, studying the desk top. An interminable silence settled between them.
“So, what is this about? You want to call off the merger?”
“Absolutely not. We need the merger.”
“The marriage, then.” His father jerked his head toward Annabelle. “You want me to call that off?”
“Yes.” Imaad’s conviction shuddered through her, and disappointment followed in its wake. But we’re so good together. They hadn’t mentioned the arranged marriage once during her mother’s recovery. Instead, they’d spent time together as a burgeoning couple should—exploring one another, falling deep into each other’s crevices and hidden spots, delighting in the joys and wonders uncovered.
His father sighed extra long, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. “Okay. Okay. We’ll dissolve the marriage clause.”
“But we must do it now,” Imaad said. Annabelle lifted a brow. The verbal agreement seemed enough. “It’ll be easy enough to take out of the contract.”
Imaad’s father nodded slowly, turning to his computer. “As you wish.”