Tower of Dawn Page 44

Chaol pushed the cup against her mouth a third time, and she drank a full gulp.

Enough. He needed it more than she did—

He sensed she was likely to bark at him, withdrew the cup from her mouth, and merely sipped it. One gulp. Two.

He drained it and grabbed the other one, offering her the first sips again before he took the dregs.

Insufferable man.

Yrene must have said as much, because a half smile kicked up on one side of his face. “You’re not the first to call me that,” he said, his voice smoother. Less hoarse.

“I won’t be the last, I’m sure,” she muttered.

Chaol simply gave her that half smile again and stretched to refill both cups. He added the honey himself—less than Kadja had. The right amount. He stirred them, his hands steady.

“I can do it,” Yrene tried to say.

“So can I,” was all he said.

She managed to hold the cup this time. He made sure she was well onto drinking hers before he lifted his own to his lips.

“I should go.” The thought of getting out of the palace, let alone the trek to the Torre, then the walk up the stairs to her rooms …

“Rest. Eat—you must be starving.”

She eyed him. “You’re not?” He’d exercised heavily before she’d arrived; he had to be famished from that alone.

“I am. But I don’t think I can wait for dinner.” He added, “You could join me.”

It was one thing to heal him, work with him, let him serve her tea. But to dine with him, the man who had served that butcher, the man who had worked for him while that dark army was amassed down in Morath … There it was. That smoke in her nose, the crackle of flame and screaming.

Yrene leaned forward to set her cup on the table. Then stood. Every movement was stiff, sore. “I need to return to the Torre,” she said, knees wobbling. “The vigil is at sundown.” Still a good hour from now, thankfully.

He noted her swaying and reached for her, but she stepped out of his range. “I’ll leave the supplies.” Because the thought of lugging that heavy bag back …

“Let me arrange a carriage for you.”

“I can ask at the front gate,” she said. If someone was hunting her, she’d opt for the safety of a carriage.

She had to grip the furniture as she passed to keep upright. The distance to the door seemed eternal.

“Yrene.”

She could barely stand at the door, but she paused to look back.

“The lesson tomorrow.” The focus had already returned to those brown eyes. “Where do you want me to meet you?”

She debated calling it off. Wondered what she’d been thinking, asking him of all people to come.

But … five hours. Five hours of agony, and he had not broken.

Perhaps it was for that alone that she had declined dinner. If he had not broken, then she would not break—not in seeing him as anything but what he was. What he’d served.

“I’ll meet you in the main courtyard at sunrise.”

Mustering the strength to walk was an effort, but she did it. Put one foot in front of the other.

Left him alone in that room, still staring after her.

Five hours of agony, and she’d known it had not all been physical.

She had sensed, shoving against that wall, that the darkness had also showed him things on the other side of it.

Glimmers had sometimes shivered past her. Nothing she could make out, but they felt … they had felt like memories. Nightmares. Perhaps both.

Yet he had not asked her to stop.

And part of Yrene wondered, as she trudged through the palace, if Lord Chaol had not asked her to stop not just because he’d learned how to manage pain, but also because he somehow felt he deserved it.

Everything hurt.

Chaol did not let himself think about what he had seen. What had flashed through his mind as that pain had wracked him, burned and flayed and shattered him. What—and who he’d seen. The body on the bed. The collar on a throat. The head that had rolled.

He could not escape them. Not while Yrene had worked.

So the pain had ripped through him, so he had seen it, over and over.

So he had roared and screamed and bellowed.

She’d stopped only when she’d slid to the floor.

He’d been left hollow. Void.

She still had not wanted to spend more than a moment necessary with him.

He didn’t blame her.

Not that it mattered. Though he reminded himself that she’d asked him to help tomorrow.

In whatever way he could.

Chaol ate his meal where Yrene had left him, still in his undershorts. Kadja didn’t seem to notice or care, and he was too aching and tired to bother with modesty.

Aelin would likely have laughed to see him now. The man who had stumbled out of her room after she’d declared that her cycle had arrived. Now sitting in this fine room, mostly naked and not giving a shit about it.

Nesryn returned before sundown, her face flushed and hair windblown. One look at her tentative smile told him enough. At least she’d been somewhat successful with Sartaq. Perhaps she’d manage to do what it seemed he himself was failing to: raising a host to bring back home.

He’d meant to speak to the khagan today—about the threat last night’s attack had posed. Meant to, and yet it was now late enough to prevent arranging such a meeting.

He barely heard Nesryn as she whispered about Sartaq’s possible sympathy. Her ride on his magnificent ruk. Exhaustion weighed on him so heavily he could hardly keep his eyes open, even while he pictured those ruks squaring off against Ironteeth witches and wyverns, even while he debated who might survive such battles.

But he managed to give the order that curdled on his tongue: Go hunting, Nesryn.

If one of Erawan’s Valg minions had indeed come to Antica, time was not on their side. Every step, every request might be reported back to Erawan. And if they were pursuing Yrene, either for reading up on the Valg or for healing the Hand of the King of Adarlan … He didn’t trust anyone here enough to ask them to do this. Anyone other than Nesryn.

Nesryn had nodded at his request. Had understood why he’d nearly spat it out. To let her go into danger, to hunt that sort of danger …

But she’d done it before in Rifthold. She reminded him of that—gently. Sleep beckoned, turning his body foreign and heavy, but he managed to make his final request: Be careful.

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