Tower of Dawn Page 53

The columns and halls and gardens of the palace passed in a blur. Yrene was so intent on reaching his rooms that she barely noticed someone had called her name.

It wasn’t until it was repeated a second time that she recognized it—and cringed.

By the time she turned, Kashin—clad in armor and sweating enough to reveal he’d likely been exercising with the palace guards—had reached her side.

“I’ve been looking for you,” he said, his brown eyes immediately going to her chest. No—to the stain still on her dress. Kashin’s brows lifted. “If you want to send that to the laundry, I’m sure Hasar can lend you some clothes while it is cleaned.”

She’d forgotten she was still in it—the stained, wrinkled dress. Hadn’t really felt like she was quite as much of a mess until now. Hadn’t felt like a barnyard animal.

“Thank you for the offer, but I’ll manage.”

She took a step away, but Kashin said, “I heard about the assailant in the library. I arranged for additional guards to arrive at the Torre after sundown every night and stay until dawn. No one will get in without our notice.”

It was generous—kind. As he had always been with her. “Thank you.”

His face remained grave as he swallowed. Yrene braced herself for the words he’d voice, but Kashin only said, “Please be careful. I know you made your thoughts clear, but—”

“Kashin.”

“—it doesn’t change the fact that we are, or were, friends, Yrene.”

Yrene made herself meet his eyes. Made herself say, “Lord Westfall mentioned your … thoughts about Tumelun.”

For a moment, Kashin glanced to the white banners streaming from the nearby window. She opened her mouth, perhaps to finally offer her condolences, to try to mend this thing that had fractured between them, but the prince said, “Then you understand how dire this threat may be.”

She nodded. “I do. And I will be careful.”

“Good,” he said simply. His face shifted into an easy smile, and for a heartbeat, Yrene wished she’d been able to feel anything beyond mere friendship. But it had never been that way with him, at least on her part. “How is the healing of Lord Westfall? Have you made progress?”

“Some,” she hedged. Insulting a prince, even one who was a former friend, by striding off was not wise, but the longer this conversation went on … She took a breath. “I would like to stay and talk—”

“Then stay.” That smile broadened. Handsome—Kashin was truly a handsome man. If he had been anyone else, bore any other title—

She shook her head, offering a tight smile. “Lord Westfall is expecting me.”

“I heard you rode with him this morning to the Torre. Did he not come back with you?”

She tried to keep the pleading expression off her face as she bobbed a curtsy. “I have to go. Thank you again for the concern—and the guards, Prince.”

The title hung between them, pealing like a struck bell.

But Yrene walked on, feeling Kashin’s stare until she rounded a corner.

She leaned against the wall, closing her eyes and exhaling deeply. Fool. So many others would call her a fool and yet—

“I almost feel bad for the man.”

She opened her eyes to find Chaol, breathless and eyes still smoldering, wheeling himself around the corner.

“Of course,” he went on, “I was far back enough that I couldn’t hear you, but I certainly saw his face when he left.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Yrene said blandly, and resumed walking toward his suite. Slower.

“Don’t check your pace on my account. You made impressive time.”

She sliced him a glare. “Did I do something to offend you today?”

His level stare revealed nothing, but his powerful arms kept working the wheels of his chair as he pushed himself along.

“Well?”

“Why do you shove away the prince? It seems like you two were once close.”

It was not the time or the place for this conversation. “That is none of your business.”

“Indulge me.”

“No.”

He easily kept pace with her as she increased her own. All the way to the doors to his suite.

Kadja was standing outside, and Yrene gave her an inane order—“I need dried thyme, lemon, and garlic”—that might have very well been one of her mother’s old recipes for fresh trout.

The servant vanished with a bow, and Yrene flung open the suite doors, holding one wide for him to pass.

“Just so you know,” Yrene hissed as she shut the doors loudly behind him, “your piss-poor attitude helps no one and nothing.”

Chaol slammed his chair to a halt in the middle of the foyer, and she winced at what it must have done to his hands. He opened his mouth, but shut it.

Right as the door to the other bedroom opened and Nesryn emerged, hair wet and gleaming.

“I was wondering where you went,” she said to him, then gave Yrene a nod of greeting. “Early morning?”

It took Yrene a few heartbeats to reorder the room, the dynamic with Nesryn now in it. Yrene was not the primary … person. She was the help, the secondary … whatever.

Chaol shook out his hands—indeed red marks marred them—but said to Nesryn, “I went to the Torre to help the girls with a defense lesson.”

Nesryn looked at the chair.

“On horseback,” he said.

Nesryn’s eyes now shot to Yrene, bright and wide. “You—how?”

“A brace,” Yrene clarified. “We were just about to resume our second attempt at healing.”

“And you could truly ride?”

Yrene felt Chaol’s inward flinch—mostly because she flinched as well. At the disbelief.

“We didn’t try out anything more than a fast walk, but yes,” he said calmly. Evenly. Like he expected such questions from Nesryn. Had grown used to it. “Maybe tomorrow I’ll try a trot.”

Though without leverage from his legs, the bouncing … Yrene went through her mental archives on groin injuries. But she stayed quiet.

“I’ll go with you,” Nesryn said, dark eyes lighting. “I can show you the city—perhaps my uncle’s home.”

Chaol only replied, “I would like that,” before Nesryn pressed a kiss to his cheek.

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