Tower of Dawn Page 63

But his toes had moved. And the pathways she’d sent her magic floating along, dots of light darting through him … Damaged, yes, but if she could slowly start to replace those frayed, tiny communicators within him … It would be long, and hard, yet …

Yrene knew it was not guilt alone that had her rising so early on Tehome’s Day.

He was from Adarlan—she doubted he’d care if he got the day off.

Dawn had barely broken by the time Yrene slipped into the Torre courtyard and paused.

The sun had crept over the compound walls, spearing a few shafts of golden light into the purplish shadows.

And in one of those shafts of sunlight, the faint strands of gold in his brown hair gleaming …

“She wakes,” Lord Chaol said.

Yrene strode for him, gravel crunching loudly in the drowsy dawn. “You rode here?”

“All by myself.”

She only arched a brow at the white mare beside his. “And you brought the other horse?”

“A gentleman through and through.”

She crossed her arms, frowning up at where he sat mounted. “Any further movement?”

The morning sun lit his eyes, turning the brown into near-gold. “How are you feeling?”

“Answer my question, please.”

“Answer mine.”

She gaped at him a bit. Debated scowling. “I’m fine,” she said, waving a hand. “But have you felt any further—”

“Did you get the rest you needed?”

Yrene gaped at him truly this time. “Yes.” She scowled now, too. “And it’s none of your concern—”

“It certainly is.”

He said it so calmly. With such male entitlement. “I know that in Adarlan, women bow to whatever men say, but here, if I say it’s none of your business, then it isn’t.”

Chaol gave her a half smile. “So we’re back to the animosity today.”

She reined in her rising shriek. “We are not back to anything. I’m your healer, and you are my patient, and I asked you about the status of your—”

“If you’re not rested,” he said, as if it were the most rational thing in the world, “then I’m not letting you near me.”

Yrene opened and closed her mouth. “And how will you decide that?”

Slowly, his eyes swept over her. Every inch.

Her heart thundered at the long look. The relentless focus. “Good color,” he said. “Good posture. Certainly good sass.”

“I’m not some prize horse, as you said yesterday.”

“Two days ago.”

She braced her hands on her hips. “I’m fine. Now, how are you?” Each word was accentuated.

Chaol’s eyes danced. “I’m feeling quite well, Yrene. Thank you for asking.”

Yrene. If she wasn’t inclined to leap onto his horse and strangle him, she might have contemplated how the way he said her name made her toes curl.

But she hissed, “Don’t mistake my kindness for stupidity. If you have had any progress, or regressions, I will find them out.”

“If this is your kindness, then I’d hate to see your bad side.”

She knew he meant the words in jest, yet … Her back stiffened.

He seemed to realize it, and leaned down in his saddle. “It was a joke, Yrene. You have been more generous than … It was a joke.”

She shrugged, heading for the white horse.

He said, perhaps an attempt to steer them back toward neutral ground, “How are the other healers faring—after the attack?”

A shiver crawled up her spine as she grabbed the mare’s reins, but made no move to mount. Yrene had offered to help with the burial, but Hafiza had refused, telling her to save her strength for Lord Westfall. But it hadn’t stopped her from visiting the death chamber beneath the Torre two days ago—from seeing the desiccated body laid out on the stone slab in the center of the rock-hewn chamber, the leathery, drained face, the bones that jutted out from paper-thin skin. She’d offered up a prayer to Silba before she’d left, and had not been awake yesterday when they’d buried her in the catacombs far beneath the tower.

Yrene now frowned up at the tower looming overhead, its presence always such a comfort, and yet … Since that night in the library, despite Hafiza’s and Eretia’s best efforts, there had been a hush in the halls, the tower itself. As if the light that had filled this place had guttered.

“They fight to retain a sense of normalcy,” Yrene said at last. “I think in defiance against … against whoever did it. Hafiza and Eretia have led by example, staying calm, focused—smiling when they can. I think it helps the other girls not to be so petrified.”

“If you want me to help with another lesson,” he offered, “my services are at your disposal.”

She nodded absently, running her thumb over the bridle.

Silence fell for a long moment, filled with the scent of swaying lavender and the potted lemon trees. Then—“Were you really planning on barging into my room at dawn?”

Yrene turned from the patient white mare. “You don’t seem the type to laze in bed.” She raised her brows. “Though, if you and Captain Faliq are engaging in—”

“You can come at dawn, if you wish.”

She nodded. Even though she usually loved sleeping. “I was going to check on a patient before I visited you. Since we tend to … lose time.” He didn’t reply, so she went on, “I can meet you back at the palace in two hours, if you—”

“I can go with you. I don’t mind.”

She dropped the reins. Surveyed him. His legs. “Before we go, I should like to do some exercises with you.”

“On the horse?”

Yrene strode to him, gravel hissing beneath her shoes. “It’s actually a successful form of treatment for many—not just those with spinal injuries. The movements of a horse during riding can improve sensory processing, among other benefits.” She unbuckled the brace and slid his foot from the stirrup. “When I was on the steppes last winter, I healed a young warrior who had fallen from his horse on a grueling hunt—the wound was nearly the same as yours. His tribe devised the brace for him before I got there, since he was even less inclined to remain indoors than you.”

Chaol snorted, running a hand through his hair.

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