Tower of Dawn Page 29

“I can’t.”

Yrene opened her mouth. But the lord flicked his gaze toward the open door. Her warning to him silently echoed. “Then we shall try to work around it,” she declared. “Sit up. I want to inspect your neck.”

He obeyed, and she observed him while his heavily muscled abdomen eased him upright, then he carefully swung his feet and legs to the floor. Good. That he had not just this much mobility, but the steady, calm patience to work with his body … Good.

Yrene kept that to herself while she strode on still-wobbly knees to the desk where she’d left the vials of amber fluid—massage oils pressed from rosemary and lavender from estates just beyond Antica’s walls, and eucalyptus from the far south.

She selected the eucalyptus, the crisp, smothering scent coiling around her as she pried off the stopper from the vial and took up a place beside him on the couch. Soothing, that scent. For both of them.

Seated together on that couch, he indeed towered over her—the muscled mass of him enough to make her understand why he’d been so adept at his position. Being perched beside him was different, somehow, than standing above him, touching him. Sitting beside a Lord of Adarlan …

Yrene didn’t let the thought settle as she pooled a small amount of the oil into her palm and rubbed her hands together to warm it. He inhaled deeply, as if taking the scent into his lungs, and Yrene didn’t bother to speak as she laid her hands upon his nape.

Broad, sweeping strokes around and down the broad column of his neck. Over his shoulders.

He let out a deep groan as she passed over a knot between his neck and shoulder, the sound of it reverberating into her palms, then stiffened. “Sorry.”

She ignored the apology, digging her thumbs into the area. Another noise rumbled out of him. Perhaps it made her cruel not to comment on his slight embarrassment, not to dismiss it. But Yrene just leaned in, sliding her palms down his back, giving a wide berth to that horrid mark.

She reined her magic in tightly, not letting her power brush up against it again.

“Tell me what you know,” she murmured in his ear, her cheek close enough to scrape the faint stubble coating his jaw. “Now.”

He waited a moment, listening for anyone nearby. And as Yrene’s hands stroked over his neck, kneading muscles that were knotted enough to make her cringe, Lord Westfall began whispering.

To Yrene Towers’s credit, her hands did not falter once while Chaol murmured in her ear about horrors even a dark god could not conjure.

Wyrdgates and Wyrdstone and Wyrdhounds. The Valg and Erawan and his princes and collars. Even to him, it sounded no more than a bedtime story, something his mother might have once whispered during those long winter nights in Anielle, the wild winds howling around the stone keep.

He did not tell her of the keys. Of the king who had been enslaved for two decades. Of Dorian’s own enslavement. He did not tell her who had attacked him, or Perrington’s true identity. Only the power the Valg wielded, the threat they posed. That they sided with Perrington.

“So this—agent of these … demons. It was his power that hit you here,” Yrene mused in a near-whisper, hand hovering over the spot on his spine. She didn’t dare touch it, had avoided that area completely while she’d massaged him, as if dreading contact with that dark echo again. She indeed now moved her hand over to his left shoulder and resumed her glorious kneading. He barely kept in his groan at the tension she eased from his aching back and shoulders, his upper arms, his neck and lower head.

He hadn’t known how knotted they were—how hard he’d worked himself in training.

“Yes,” he said at last, his voice still low. “It meant to kill me, but … I was spared.”

“By what?” The fear had long faded from her voice; no tremor lingered in her hands. But little warmth had replaced them, either.

Chaol angled his head, letting her work a muscle so tight it had him grinding his teeth. “A talisman that guarded me against such evil—and a stroke of luck.” Of mercy, from a king who had tried to pull that final punch. Not just as a kindness to him, but to Dorian.

Yrene’s miraculous hands stilled. She pulled back, searching his face. “Aelin Galathynius destroyed the glass castle. That was why she did it—why she took Rifthold, too. To defeat them?”

And where were you? was her unspoken demand.

“Yes.” And he found himself adding into her ear, his words little more than a rumble, “She, Nesryn, and I worked together. With many others.”

Who he had not heard from, had no idea where they were. Off fighting, scrambling to save their lands, their future, while he was here. Unable to so much as even get a private audience with a prince, let alone the khagan.

Yrene considered. “Those are the horrors allying with Perrington,” she said softly. “What the armies will be fighting.”

Fear returned to blanch her face, but he offered what truth he could. “Yes.”

“And you—you will be fighting them?”

He gave her a bitter smile. “If you and I can figure this out.” If you can do the impossible.

But she did not return the amusement. Yrene only scooted back on the sofa, assessing him, wary and distant. For a moment, he thought she’d say something, ask him something, but she only shook her head. “I have much to look into. Before I dare go any further.” She gestured to his back, and he realized that he was still sitting in his undershorts.

He bit down on the urge to reach for his clothes. “Is there a risk—to you?” If there was—

“I don’t know. I … I truly have never encountered anything like this before. I should like to look into it, before I begin treating you and compose an exercise regimen. I need to do some research in the Torre library tonight.”

“Of course.” If this damned injury got them both hurt in the process, he’d refuse. He didn’t know what the hell he’d do, but he’d refuse to let her touch him. And for the risk, the effort … “You never mentioned your fee. For your help.”

It had to be exorbitant. If they’d sent their best, if she had such skill—

Yrene’s brows furrowed. “If you are so inclined, any donation may be made to help the upkeep of the Torre and its staff, but there is no price, no expectation.”

“Why?”

Her hand slid into her pocket as she rose. “I was given this gift by Silba. It is not right to charge for what was granted for free.”

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