Tower of Dawn Page 71

Nesryn remained deep in conversation with Sartaq, showing no sign of distress, of knowledge of … of whatever had happened here.

He was a bastard. A gods-damned bastard.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” was all he could think to say to Yrene. But he blurted as she walked away, “Let me get you an escort.”

Because Kashin was watching them from across the room, a servant girl in his lap, running a hand through his hair. And that was … oh, that was cold violence in Kashin’s face as he noticed Chaol’s attention.

The others might think what had just gone on between him and Yrene was an act, but Kashin … The man wasn’t as stupidly loyal as the others thought. No, he was well aware of those around him. He could read men. Assess them.

And it had not been the arousal that had let the prince realize it was genuine. But the guilt Chaol realized too late he and Yrene had let show.

“I will ask Hasar,” Yrene said, and headed toward where the princess and her lover sat on their couch, mouths roving over each other with an unhurried attention to detail.

He remained on the couch, monitoring as Yrene approached the women. Hasar blinked up blearily at her.

But the lust fogging the princess’s face cleared at the curt nod Yrene gave. Mission accomplished. Yrene leaned down and whispered into Hasar’s ear as she kissed her cheeks in farewell. Chaol read the movement of her lips even from across the room. Skull’s Bay.

Hasar smiled slowly, then snapped her fingers to a waiting guard. The man immediately strode for them. He watched her order the man, watched her undoubtedly threaten him with death and worse if Yrene did not make it back to the Torre safely.

Yrene only gave the princess an exasperated smile before bidding her and Renia good night and following the guard out. She glanced back at the archway.

Even across the nearly hundred feet of polished marble and towering pillars, the space between them went taut.

As if that white light he’d glimpsed inside himself two days ago was a living rope. As if she’d somehow planted herself in him that afternoon.

Yrene did not so much as nod before she left, skirts swirling around her.

When Chaol looked to Nesryn again, he found her attention upon him.

Found her face blank—so carefully blank—as she gave him a little nod of what he assumed was understanding. The match was over for tonight. She was waiting to hear the final score.

The smoke was still clinging to Chaol’s nostrils, his hair, his jacket as he and Nesryn entered their suite an hour later. He had joined her and Sartaq in their quiet little area, watching guests peel off to their own chambers—or someone else’s. Yes, Dorian would certainly have loved this court.

Sartaq escorted them to their room and offered them a somewhat stiff good night. More restrained than his words and smiles of earlier. Chaol didn’t blame him. There were likely eyes everywhere.

Even if the prince’s own lingered mostly on Nesryn as she bid Sartaq farewell and she and Chaol slipped into their suite.

The suite was mostly dark, save for a colored glass lantern Kadja had left burning on the foyer table. Their bedroom doors loomed like cavern mouths.

The pause in the dim foyer went on for a heartbeat too long.

Nesryn silently stepped toward her room.

Chaol grabbed her hand before she could make it a foot.

Slowly, she looked back over her shoulder, her dark hair shifting like midnight silk.

Even in the dimness, he knew Nesryn read what lay in his eyes.

His skin tightened around his bones, his heart a thundering beat, but he waited.

She said at last, “I think I am needed elsewhere than this palace right now.”

He maintained his grip on her hand. “We shouldn’t discuss this in the hall.”

Nesryn’s throat bobbed, but she nodded once. She made to push his chair, but he moved before she could, steering himself into his bedroom. Letting her follow.

Letting her shut the door behind them.

Moonlight leaked in through the garden windows, spilling upon the bed.

Kadja had not lit the candles, either anticipating the use of this room after the party for purposes other than sleeping or that he might not return at all. But in the dark, in the humming from the cicadas in the garden trees …

“I need you here,” Chaol said.

“Do you?” A stark, honest question.

He gave Nesryn the respect of considering her question. “I … We were supposed to do this together. Everything.”

She shook her head, short hair shifting. “Paths change. You know that as much as anyone.”

He did. He really damn did. But it still … “Where do you mean to go?”

“Sartaq mentioned that he wishes to seek out answers amongst his people, about whether the Valg made it to this continent before. I … I am tempted to go with him, if he will let me. To see if there are indeed answers to be found, and if I might convince him to perhaps go against his father’s orders. Or at least speak on our behalf.”

“To go with him to where, though? The ruk riders in the south?”

“Perhaps. He mentioned at the party that he’ll leave in a few days. But you and I have a slim enough shot. Maybe I can better our odds with the prince, find information of value amongst the rukhin. If one of Erawan’s agents is in Antica … I trust the khagan’s guard to protect this palace and the Torre, but you and I, we must gather what forces we can before Erawan can send more against us.” She paused. “And you … you are making good progress. I would not interfere with that.”

Unspoken words ran beneath her offer.

Chaol scrubbed at his face. For her to leave, to simply accept it, this fork in the path before them … He blew out a breath. “Let’s wait until morning before we decide anything. No good comes from choices made late at night.”

Nesryn fell silent, and he hoisted himself onto the mattress before removing his jacket and boots. “Will you sit with me? Tell me about your family—about the celebration today with them.” He had only received the barest of details, and perhaps it was guilt that now fueled him, but …

Their eyes met in the dark, a nightingale’s hymn flitting through the closed doors. He could have sworn he saw understanding shine in her face, then settle, a rock dropped into a pool.

Nesryn approached the bed on silent feet, unbuttoning her jacket and slinging it over a chair before toeing off her boots. She climbed onto the mattress, a pillow sighing as she leaned against it.

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