Poison Study Page 64

Before I could reply, he stopped me. “Be quiet and stay close behind me.” We went back out into the alley. Keeping in the shadows, we walked back to Star’s house, where Valek guided me into a dark entrance within sight of Star’s door.

“The person who has been leaking information to Star is due to arrive soon,” Valek whispered close to my ear. His lips lightly rubbed my cheek. Shivers rippled down my spine at his touch, distracting me from what he had said.

The impact of Valek’s words didn’t hit me until I saw a lone figure with an uneven gait walking down the street.

Chapter Twenty-Two

Irecognized that stride. My heart melted as I watched Rand limp to Star’s house, knocking twice.

She admitted Rand into her home without a moment’s hesitation. The faint thump of the closing door echoed hollowly in my chest.

“Another test?” I asked Valek with desperate urgency. “Is he working for you?” But I knew the answer deep in my soul, even before I saw the sad shake of his head. I felt empty, as if every emotion had been wrenched out of me. It was just too much. After Reyad’s ghost, Nix’s attack and Valek’s test, I was mentally unable to handle another blow. I just stared at Valek with no thoughts, no feelings and no desires.

Valek motioned for me to follow him. I complied. We circled around to the back of Star’s house. Entering the building to the left, we padded up three stories. The interior was dark and empty except for the top floor. One of Valek’s men sat cross-legged with his back resting against the wall shared with Star’s study. He wrote in a notebook, using a single candle as illumination.

Rand’s voice could be heard clearly. Using hand signals, Valek communicated with the man. He gave the notebook to Valek and disappeared down the steps. Valek sat in the man’s spot, and then tapped the floor next to him.

I crouched beside him, facing the wall. I had no desire to hear Rand’s deceit, but I didn’t have the willpower to leave. Valek pointed to an array of small holes in the wood. I peered through. All I could see was the back of a piece of furniture. I guessed that the holes were for listening purposes only. Squatting on the floor, I rested my forehead against the wall and closed my eyes as I eavesdropped on Rand’s conversation.

“Generals are coming to town this week. That’s nothing new, but the Commander ordered a feast, so something’s up. Something significant. But I haven’t been able to figure out what,” Rand said.

“Let me know as soon as possible,” Star replied. Then she paused. “Maybe Yelena knows what’s going on.”

My heart lurched when I heard my name. Run away, run away, run away, my mind screamed, but I only pressed my forehead harder on the wall.

“I doubt it. She was surprised when I mentioned the feast, so I didn’t ask her. She might know more later this week. I’ll try again.”

“Don’t bother. I’ll ask her myself.” The sleek tone of Star’s voice implied that she had concealed this revelation until the time when exposing it would cause maximum damage.

“Yelena?” Rand sputtered. “Working for you? Impossible. That’s not her style.”

“Are you suggesting she’s working for Valek?” Alarm tightened her voice.

Equally upset, I glanced at Valek. He shook his head, waving his hand in a “don’t worry” gesture.

“No. She wouldn’t.” Rand had recovered. “I’m just surprised, but I shouldn’t be. She could use the money, and who am I to think any less of her for it?”

“Well, you shouldn’t be thinking of her at all. As I see it, she’s disposable. The only concern I’ll have when she dies is, who’s going to replace her and how quickly can I bribe him?”

“Star, once again you’ve shown me in the most repulsive way that the sooner I pay off my debt to you the better. How much credit do I get for tonight’s information?”

“Two silvers. I’ll mark it in my book, but it won’t make much difference.”

“What do you mean?”

“Haven’t you figured it out by now? You’ll never pay off your debt. As soon as you get close, you always gamble yourself right down another hole. You’re too weak, Rand. Too swayed by your own emotions. Easily addicted, and lacking in willpower.”

“Oh, that’s right. You claim to be a magician. Have you read my mind, Captain? ‘Captain Star’—what a laugh! If you really had magic, Valek would have taken care of you long ago. I know you’re not as smart as you claim.” The heavy uneven tread of footsteps resounded through the wall as Rand started to walk away.

I was astounded. I had never heard Rand speak with such harsh sarcasm before, and more than that, if Star was a magician, I could be in serious danger. My mind spun, but it was all too complex to contemplate at this time.

“I don’t need to read your mind,” Star called after him. “All I have to do is review your history, Rand. It’s all there.”

Silence settled. The only noise coming from Star’s study was the crinkle of papers being turned. Valek stood, pulling me up with him. His man had returned. Handing him the notebook, Valek descended the steps.

I followed Valek through the dark streets of Castletown. We kept to the shadows, avoiding the patrolmen. Once we had escaped the city’s limits, Valek relaxed and walked beside me on the main road to the castle.

“I’m sorry,” Valek said. “I know Rand was your friend.”

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