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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

“You said you had no choice at the harbor in Elling,” he said without looking at her. His pick rose and fell, the rhythm unbroken. “Was it because I was drüskelle? Were you planning it all along?”

Nina remembered their last real day together, the elation they’d felt when they’d crested a steep hill and seen the port town spread out below. She’d been shocked to hear Matthias say, “I am almost sorry, Nina.”

“Almost?”

“I’m too hungry to really be sorry.”

“At last, you succumb to my influence. But how are we going to eat without any money?” she asked as they headed down the hill. “I may have to sell your pretty hair to a wig shop for cash.”

“Don’t get ideas,” he’d said with a laugh. His laughter had come more easily as they’d traveled, as if he were becoming fluent in a new language. “If this is Elling, I should be able to find us lodging.”

She’d stopped then, the truth of their situation returning to her with terrible clarity. She was deep in enemy territory with no allies but a drüskelle who’d thrown her in a cage only a few weeks earlier. But before she could speak, Matthias had said, “I owe you my life, Nina Zenik. We will get you safely home.”

She’d been surprised at how easy it was to trust him. And he’d trusted her, too.

Now she swung her pick, felt the impact reverberate up her arms and into her shoulders, and said, “There were Grisha in Elling.”

He halted midswing. “What?”

“They were spies doing reconnaissance work in the port. They saw me enter the main square with you and recognized me from the Little Palace. One of them recognized you, too, Matthias. He knew you from a skirmish near the border.”

Matthias remained still.

“They waylaid me when you went to speak to the manager of the boarding house,” Nina continued. “I convinced them I was undercover there, too. They wanted to take you prisoner, but I told them that you weren’t alone, that it would be too risky to try to capture you right away. I promised I would bring you to them the next day.”

“Why didn’t you just tell me?”

Nina tossed down her pick. “Tell you there were Grisha spies in Elling? You might have made your peace with me, but you can’t expect me to believe you wouldn’t have revealed them.”

He looked away, a muscle twitching in his jaw, and she knew she’d spoken truth.

“That morning,” he said, “on the docks—”

“I had to get us both away from Elling as fast as I could. I thought if I could just find us a vessel to stow away on … but the Grisha must have been watching the boarding house and seen us leave. When they showed up on the docks, I knew they were coming for you, Matthias. If they’d captured you, you would have been taken to Ravka, interrogated, maybe executed. I spotted the Kerch trader. You know their laws on slaving.”