Tower of Dawn Page 25

It did not entirely explain Yrene’s utter need to distance herself from Kashin. Not that it was any of his business, or of any interest to him. Certainly not when Yrene’s mouth tightened if she so much as turned her head in Chaol’s direction.

He might have called her out on it, might have demanded if this meant she’d decided not to treat him. But if Kashin favored her, Yrene’s subtle rejections or not, it surely wouldn’t be a wise move to get into it with her at this table.

Footsteps sounded from behind, but it was only a vizier’s husband, come to murmur something in her ear before vanishing.

Not Nesryn.

Chaol studied the dishes strewn over the table, calculating the remaining courses. With the feasting, last night’s meal had gone on for ages. Not one dessert delicacy had been brought out yet.

He looked again to the exits, skipping over the guards stationed there, searching for her.

Facing the table again, Chaol found Yrene observing him. Wariness, displeasure still darkened those golden eyes, but … warning, too.

She knew who he looked for. Whose absence gnawed at him.

To his shock, she subtly shook her head. Don’t reveal it, she seemed to say. Don’t ask them to look for her.

He knew it already but gave Yrene a terse nod back and continued on.

Kashin attempted to engage Yrene in conversation, but each time he was promptly and politely shut down with simple answers.

Perhaps the healer’s disdain toward Chaol that morning was simply her nature, rather than hatred born of Adarlan’s conquest. Or perhaps she just hated men. It was hard not to look toward the faint scar across her throat.

Chaol managed to wait until dessert arrived before feigning exhaustion and leaving the table. Kadja was already there, waiting by the farthest pillars of the hall with the other servants, and said nothing as she wheeled that chair away, every rattle making him grate his teeth.

Yrene didn’t say a word of parting, or offer a promise of returning the next day. She didn’t so much as look in his direction.

But Nesryn was not in the room when he returned. And if he searched for her, if he drew attention to the threat, to their closeness and how any enemy might wield it against them …

So he waited. Listened to the garden fountain, the singing of the nightingale perched in a fig tree within it, listened to the steady count of the clock on the sitting room mantel.

Eleven. Twelve. He told Kadja to go to sleep—that he’d care for himself and get himself in bed. She did not leave, only took up a place against the painted foyer wall to wait.

It was nearly one when the door opened.

Nesryn slipped in. He knew it, simply because he’d learned her sounds of moving.

She saw the candles in the sitting room and strode in.

Not a mark on her. Only—light. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes brighter than they’d been this morning. “I’m sorry I missed dinner,” was all she said.

His reply was low, guttural. “Do you have any idea how worried I’ve been?”

She halted, hair swaying with the movement. “I was not aware I had to send word of my comings and goings. You told me to go.”

“You went into a foreign city and did not come back when you said you would.” Every word was biting, slicing.

“It is not a foreign city—not to me.”

He slammed his palm onto the arm of the chair. “One of the princesses was murdered a few weeks ago. A princess. In her own palace—the seat of the most powerful empire in the world.”

She crossed her arms. “We don’t know if it was murder. Kashin seems to be the only one who thinks so.”

It was utterly beside the point. Even if he’d barely remembered to study his dinner companions tonight for any sign of the Valg’s presence. He said too quietly, “I couldn’t even go looking for you. I didn’t dare tell them that you were missing.”

She blinked, slow and long. “My family was glad to see me, in case you were wondering. And they received a brief letter from my father yesterday. They got out.” She began unbuttoning her jacket. “They could be anywhere.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Chaol said through his teeth. Though he knew that not knowing where her family was would eat at her as much as the terror of the past day of not knowing whether they lived. He said as calmly as he could, “This thing between us doesn’t work if you don’t tell me where you are, or if your plans change.”

“I was at their house, eating dinner. I lost track of time. They begged me to stay with them.”

“You know better than to not send word. Not after the shit we’ve been through.”

“I have nothing to fear in this city—this place.”

She said it with enough bite that he knew she meant that in Rifthold … in Rifthold she did.

He hated that she felt that way. Hated it and yet: “Isn’t that what we are fighting for? So that our own lands might be so safe one day?”

Her face shuttered. “Yes.”

She finished unbuttoning her jacket, peeling it off to reveal the shirt beneath, and slung it over a shoulder. “I’m going to bed. I’ll see you in the morning.”

She didn’t wait for his farewell before she strode into her room and shut the door.

Chaol sat for long minutes in the sitting room, waiting for her to emerge. And when he finally let Kadja bring him into his room and help change him into his bedclothes, after she blew out the candles and left on silent feet, he waited for his door to open.

But Nesryn did not come in. And he could not go to her—not without dragging poor Kadja from wherever she slept, listening for any sound that she might be needed.

He was still waiting for Nesryn when sleep claimed him.


Yrene made sure to be on time the next morning. She hadn’t sent word ahead, but she was willing to gamble that Lord Westfall and the new captain would be waiting at ten. Though from the glares he threw her way last night, she wondered if he doubted she’d return at all.

Let him think what he wanted.

She debated waiting until eleven, since Hasar and Renia had dragged her out drinking—or rather, Yrene had watched them drink, sipping at her own glass of wine—and she hadn’t crawled into her room in the Torre until nearly two. Hasar had offered her a suite at the palace for the night, but given the fact that they’d narrowly escaped Kashin joining them at the quiet, elegant taproom in the bustling Rose Quarter, Yrene was not inclined to risk running into him again.

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