Tower of Dawn Page 122

He didn’t smile back. Didn’t do anything but watch her with near-predatory intent as she backed away a step and offered her arm to him. To walk back to the chair.

To walk.

He was walking—

He did so. Pushed off the wall, and swayed—

Yrene caught him, steadied him.

“I thought you never stepped in to help me,” he said drily, raising a brow.

“In the chair, yes. You have much farther to fall now.”

Chaol huffed a laugh, then leaned in to whisper in her ear, “Will it be the bed or the couch now, Yrene?”

She swallowed, daring a sidelong look up at him. His eyes were still dark, his face flushed and lips swollen. From her.

Yrene’s blood heated, her core near-molten. How the hell would she have him nearly naked before her now?

“You are still my patient,” she managed to say primly, and guided him into his chair. Nearly shoved him onto it—and nearly leaped atop him, too. “And while there is no official vow about such things, I plan to keep things professional.”

Chaol’s answering smile was anything but. So was the way he growled, “Come here.”

Yrene’s heartbeat pounded through every inch of her as she closed the foot of space between them. As she held his burning gaze and settled into his lap.

His hand slid beneath her hair to cup the back of her neck, drawing her face to his as he brushed a kiss over the corner of her mouth. Then the other. She gripped his shoulder, fingers digging into the hard muscle beneath, her breathing turning jagged as he nipped at her bottom lip, as his other hand began to explore up her torso—

A door opened in the hallway, and Yrene was instantly up, striding across the sitting room for the desk—to the vials of oil there. Just as Kadja slipped through the door, a tray in her hands.

The servant girl had found the “ingredients” Yrene needed. Twine, goat’s milk, and vinegar.

Yrene could barely remember words to thank the servant as the girl set the tray on the desk.

Whether Kadja saw their faces, their hair and clothes, and could read the white-hot line of tension between them, she said nothing. Yrene had no doubt she might suspect, would no doubt report it to whoever held her leash, but … Yrene found herself not caring as she leaned against the desk, Kadja departing as silently as she had come.

Found Chaol still watching her, chest heaving.

“What do we do now?” Yrene asked quietly.

For she didn’t know—how to go back—

Chaol didn’t reply. He just stretched out one leg wholly in front of him. Then the other. Did it again, marveling.

“We don’t look back,” he said, meeting her stare. “It helps no one and nothing to look back.” The way he said it … It seemed as if it meant something more. To him, at least.

But Chaol’s smile grew, his eyes lighting as he added, “We can only go on.”

Yrene went to him, unable to stop herself, as if that smile were a beacon in the dark.

And when Chaol wheeled himself to the couch and peeled off his shirt, when he lay down and she set her hands on his warm, strong back … Yrene smiled as well.

40

Standing and walking a few steps wasn’t the same as being back to full capacity.

The next week proved it. Yrene still battled with whatever lurked in Chaol’s spine, still clinging—down to the very base, she explained—and still keeping him from full motion. Running, most jumping, kicking: out of the question. But thanks to the sturdy wooden cane she procured for him, he could stand, and he could walk.

And it was a gods-damned miracle.

He brought the cane and the chair to his morning training with Hashim and the guards, for the moments when he pushed himself too hard and couldn’t manage the return trip to his rooms. Yrene joined him during the early lessons, instructing Hashim on where to focus in his legs. To rebuild more muscle. To stabilize him further. She’d done the same for Shen, Hashim had confided one morning—had come to supervise most of his initial training sessions after his injury.

So Yrene had been there, watching from the sidelines, that first day Chaol had taken up a sword against Hashim and dueled. Or did it as best he could with the cane in one hand.

His balance was shit, his legs unreliable, but he managed to get in a few good hits against the man. And a cane … not a bad weapon, if the fight called for it.

Yrene’s eyes had been wide as saucers when they stopped and Chaol approached her spot on the wall, leaning heavily on the cane as his body trembled.

The color on her face, he realized with no small amount of male satisfaction, was from far more than the heat. And when they’d eventually left, walking slowly into the cool shadows of the halls, Yrene had tugged him into a curtained-off alcove and kissed him.

Leaning against a supply shelf for support, his hands had roved all over her, the generous curves and small waist, tangling into her long, heavy hair. She’d kissed and kissed him, breathless and panting, and then licked—actually licked the sweat from his neck.

Chaol had groaned so loudly that it was no surprise a servant appeared a heartbeat later, ripping the curtain away, as if to chide two workers for shirking their duties.

Yrene had blanched as she’d righted herself and asked the bowing and scraping male servant not to say anything. He assured her that he wouldn’t, but Yrene had been shaken. She’d kept her distance for the rest of the walk back.

And maintained it every day since. It was driving him mad.

But he understood. With her position, both in the Torre and within the palace, they should be smarter. More careful.

And with Kadja always in his rooms …

Chaol kept his hands to himself. Even when Yrene laid her own hands upon his back and healed him, pushed and pushed herself, to break through that final wall of darkness.

He wanted to tell her, debated telling her, that it was already enough. He would gladly live with the cane for the rest of his life. She had given him more than he could ever hope for.

For he saw the guards every morning. The weapons and shields.

And he thought of that war, unleashing itself at last upon his friends. His homeland.

Even if he did not bring an army with him when he returned, he’d find some way to stand on those battlefields. Riding, at least, was now a viable option while fighting alongside them.

Fighting for—her.

He was thinking of it as they walked to dinner one night, over a week later. With the cane, it took him longer than usual, but he did not mind any extra moment spent in her company.

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