Just Business

She was gone. Zahi frowned and shouldered past the edge of the crowd. The security nodded to him as they drew the black velvet ropes aside. He set Naida’s cocktail down on the table. Jared and Omar looked up at him. “Thanks dude, more of a beer guy myself though. You know they’ll bring those to us right?” Omar said. The model paid to be under his arm twittered. Zahi gave her a look and she stopped.

“Where’s Naida?”

His friends shrugged. “She left. Some other guy came up, said something and she left.”

“Another guy? You’re serious?” Zahi’s vision flickered. Another guy. And after the hell she’d put him through about Fatima. Another shrug from Jared answered him. Zahi swore and turned his back to them. Naida was wearing absurd heels and crimson sequins, not hard to pick out as she disappeared off the dance floor and into the foyer of the club.

He caught her wrist on the sidewalk outside. “Naida, what the hell?”

She flinched. “Let me go.” Naida jerked back her wrist. Zahi dropped his hand like she’d burned him.  “Ass.” She spat and took a step back.

Zahi exhaled slowly, evening his temper. She was alone now, whoever this guy had been before.  He closed the distance between them, avoiding the jostling movement of the night crowds and club goers. “What the hell? Why’d you bail?”

“I told you, get the fuck off me.” Naida set her palms on his shoulders and pushed him back. He let her. She was fuming but there was something else. Her eyes were wide, white showing all around her dark irises. She shivered.

He didn’t move close again. “Naida, what happened?”

“I told you, I told you Zahi.” She drove a finger into his chest with shaking hands. That normally would have annoyed him. But the dark stuff around her eyes started to run. “When we started fooling around, I said …I said I was worried, cause of who you are, who your brothers are, and who my family is, and you said, you promised it wouldn’t matter.” She rambled. A small audience began to form.  Zahi glared them away.

“Please stop crying.” Zahi muttered. “Look, you are not making any sense. What happened? Why are you freaking out?”

“Because Zahi.” She scrubbed at her face, smearing her make up further. “Someone came up and told me leave, that if I didn’t they’d find me and –” She looked up at him. “Please just let me go. This was dumb.”

He balked. Someone had threatened her? Zahi resisted the urge to look around. Instead he placed his hands on her bare shoulders. “Hey, calm down. I won’t let anything happen to you. We’ll figure this out.” He gave what he hoped was a reassuring smile.

Naida frowned, a small crease forming between her perfectly shaped brows. “That’s sweet. I’m going home Zahi.”

“Don’t.” He moved around her, blocking her way to the curb and the multitudes of taxis vying for passengers. “Look, who would threaten you? Come back inside, I’ll buy you a drink, we’ll dance. This is nothing.”

“Who would threaten me? You are such an idiot sometimes.” Naida said almost kindly. She placed a hand on his cheek. “I recognized the guy. He works for your family. Ask your brother who he is, if you care enough to. Or don’t, go back inside and drink with your friends. Either way, I am leaving, sorry Zahi, its been fun but you’re not worth getting shot over.”

She stepped around him, darting into the sluggish traffic and into the back of an open taxi. Zahi could only stare as his now ex-girlfriend disappeared into the river of lights and cars.

************

It seemed like his eldest brother was always meeting with someone, leaving little time to catch up with his family. Zahi was usually understanding, running the conglomerate couldn’t be an easy job and Adel was better at those things than the rest of them. But Naida’s parting words weren’t going away. He just needed a few answers, something to put his mind at ease. Then he could go back to getting over her. He ignored his brother’s assistant and the new security outside.

Two men looked up when the door opened. “Zahi.” Adel stood and placed himself between and the rest of the study. That was fine, he wasn’t here to talk to the other man, a blond stranger in a slim cut suit. “Is something wrong? I’m in the middle of the meeting.” Adel gestured behind him towards the other man, who nodded at Zahi in way of greeting.

Zahi frowned. “I know, I needed to talk to you. Naida–”

“I’m occupied at the moment, can this– ” Adel’s took a deep breath and Zahi could see his brother’s jaw tighten. Apparently this had not been a good time.

Zahi opened his mouth to answer but the stranger interrupted. “Adel. We can reschedule. This seems a pressing manner.” Behind them the blond man stood and moved around the oak furniture. Zahi recognized him now, though not by name. American if he had the accent right. The man had been….around recently.

“Very well. I am interested in hearing more about this. Tomorrow?”  Adel ignored Zahi for the moment. The stranger nodded with a curt smile and left, shutting the door behind him.

Adel waited a beat before he turned his attention back to his youngest brother. “You had to speak to me right now?”

“I tried calling you, your assistant was going to make me schedule an appointment. Who was that?” Zahi glanced at the now closed door.

“And of course you didn’t just make an appointment.” Adel shook his head and moved back to his desk where a glass of amber liquid waited. “That was someone I am trying to recruit. A contractor or sorts. Don’t worry yourself over it, its business. You have me here now, what did you want?”

“I …” Zahi stopped. It was ridiculous. There was no reason Adel would have Naida threatened. He wouldn’t do something like that. “Naida broke up with me.”

“Ahh Naida Kavur. She did?” Adel sipped at his drink. “Well I’m sorry to hear that. Break ups can be difficult, there will be others. I promise.”

“No. That’s not– It wasn’t serious.” Zahi stopped. He felt like an idiot for even bringing it up now, but he was here and apparently already wasting his brother’s time. “Something scared her. She told me someone threatened her, someone who worked for us. She said if I wanted to know I should ask you.”

Adel sighed. “Zahi, it sounds as if there has been a misunderstanding. The Kavur family and I will soon be competing for the same interests. She is seeing threats where there are none.”

“That’t not what she said.” Zahi said slowly. Naida had her share of crazy, but she wouldn’t just make something up.  “She said someone from our family threatened her.”

“An exaggeration.” Adel said. “Advice colored with her paranoia and taken as a threat. Its for the best Zahi, really. A relationship with any of the Kavur would create complications.”

It took a moment for Zahi to comprehend exactly what his brother had just admitted. “You did it. You had someone warn her away. Why?”

“It was a business matter Zahi. That’s all, I promise.” Adel walked over an clapped him on the shoulder. “I’m sorry about Naida. Go out with your friends and have fun, no use in upsetting yourself over it. Or better yet, come on, you’ve cleared my schedule. I know its been a while since we’ve caught up.”

Adel walked out of the room, fully expecting Zahi to follow him. Not knowing what else to do, Zahi did.

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