Tower of Dawn Page 150

Something began to pound in his chest. A drumbeat that had gone silent down here.

Yrene held a hand toward him, her iridescence rippling into the darkness.

It is not the end.

“Will it hurt?” he asked hoarsely. “The way back—the way out?”

The path back to life, to himself.

“Yes,” Yrene whispered. “But just this one last time. The darkness does not want to lose you.”

“I’m afraid I can’t say the same.”

Yrene’s smile was brighter than the glow rippling off her body. A star. She was a fallen star.

She extended her hand again. A silent promise—of what waited on the other side of the dark.

He still had much to do. Oaths to keep.

And looking at her, at that smile …

Life. He had life to savor, to fight for.

And the breaking that had started and ended here … Yes, it belonged to him. He was allowed to break, so that this forging might begin.

So that he might begin again.

He owed it to his king, his country.

And he owed it to himself.

Yrene nodded as if to say yes.

So Chaol stood.

He surveyed the darkness, this piece of him. He did not balk at it.

And smiling at Yrene, he took her hand.

56

It was agony and despair and fear. It was joy and laughter and rest.

It was life, all of it, and as that darkness lunged for Chaol and Yrene, he did not fear it.

He only looked toward the dark and smiled.

Not broken.

Made anew.

And when the darkness beheld him …

Chaol slid a hand against its cheek. Kissed its brow.

It loosened its grip and tumbled back into that pit. Curled up on that rocky floor and quietly, carefully, watched him.

He had the sense of rising up, of being sucked through a too-thin door. Yrene grasped him, hauling him along with her.

She did not let go. Did not falter. She speared them upward, a star racing into the night.

White light slammed into them—

No. Daylight.

He squeezed his eyes shut against the brightness.

The first thing he felt was nothing.

No pain. No numbness. No ache or exhaustion.

Gone.

His legs were … He moved one. It flowed and shifted without a flicker of pain or tension.

Smooth as butter.

He looked to the right, to where Yrene always sat.

She was simply smiling down at him.

“How,” he rasped.

Joy lit her stunning eyes. “My theory … I’ll explain later.”

“Is the mark—”

Her mouth tightened. “It is smaller, but … still there.” She poked a point on his spine. “Though I do not feel anything when I touch it. Nothing at all.”

A reminder. As if some god wanted him to remember this, remember what had occurred.

He sat up, marveling at the ease, the lack of stiffness. “You healed me.”

“I think we both get considerable credit this time.” Her lips were too pale, skin wan.

Chaol brushed her cheek with his knuckles. “Are you feeling well?”

“I’m—tired. But fine. Are you feeling well?”

He scooped Yrene into his lap and buried his head in her neck. “Yes,” he breathed. “A thousand times, yes.”

His chest … there was a lightness to it. To his shoulders.

She batted him away. “You still need to be careful. This newly healed, you could still injure yourself. Give your body time to rest—to let the healing set.”

He lifted a brow. “What, exactly, does resting entail?”

Yrene’s smile turned wicked. “Some things that only special patients get to learn.”

His skin tightened over his bones, but Yrene slid off his lap. “You might want to bathe.”

He blinked, looking at himself. At the bed. And cringed.

That was vomit. On the sheets, on his left arm.

“When—”

“I’m not sure.”

The setting sun was indeed gilding the garden, cramming the room with long shadows.

Hours. All day, they’d been in here.

Chaol moved off the bed, marveling at how he slid through the world like a blade through silk.

He felt her watching him as he strode for the bathing room. “Hot water is safe now?” he called over his shoulder, stripping off his undershorts and stepping into the deliciously warm bath.

“Yes,” she called back. “You’re not full of strained muscles.”

He dunked under the water, scrubbing himself off. Every movement … holy gods.

When he broke from the surface, wiping the water from his face, she was standing in the arched doorway.

He went still at the smokiness in her eyes.

Slowly, Yrene undid the laces down the front of that pale purple gown. Let it ripple to the floor, along with her undergarments.

His mouth turned dry as she kept her eyes upon him, hips swishing with every step she took to the pool. To the stairs.

Yrene stepped into the water, and his blood roared in his ears.

Chaol was upon her before she’d hit the last step.

They missed dinner. And dessert.

And midnight kahve.

Kadja snuck in during the bath to change the sheets. Yrene couldn’t bring herself to be mortified at what the servant had likely heard. They certainly hadn’t been quiet in the water.

And certainly weren’t quiet during the hours following.

Yrene was limp with exhaustion when they peeled apart, sweaty enough that another trip to the bath was imminent. Chaol’s chest rose and fell in mighty gulps.

In the desert, he’d been unbelievable. But now, healed—beyond the spine, the legs; healed in that dark, rotting place within his soul …

He pressed a kiss to her sweat-sticky brow, his lips catching in the stray curls that had appeared thanks to the bath. His other hand drew circles on her lower back.

“You said something—down in that pit,” he murmured.

Yrene was too tired to form words beyond a low “Mmm.”

“You said that you love me.”

Well, that woke her up.

Her stomach clenched. “Don’t feel obligated to—”

Chaol silenced her with that steady, unruffled look. “Is it true?”

She traced the scar down his cheek. She had not seen much of the beginning, had only broken into his memories in time to see that beautiful, dark-haired man—Dorian—smiling at him. But she had sensed it, known who had given him that recent scar.

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