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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

“Are we just going to leave them there?” Wylan whispered to Inej as they hurried back to the wagon with the prisoners’ hoods in hand.

Inej’s eyes were trained on the guards moving the tree, and she didn’t look at him when she said, “They’ll wake soon enough and make a run for it. They might even get to the coast and freedom. We’re doing them a favor.”

“It doesn’t look like a favor. It looks like leaving them in a ditch.”

“Quiet,” she ordered. This wasn’t the time or the place for moral quibbling. If Wylan didn’t know the difference between being in chains and out of them, he was about to find out.

Inej cupped her hand to her mouth and gave a low, soft birdcall. They had four, maybe five minutes left before the guards cleared the road. Thankfully, the guards were raising quite a noise shouting encouragement at the horse and yelling to one another.

Matthias locked Wylan into place first, then Nina. Inej saw him stiffen as Nina lifted her hair to accept the collar, revealing the white curve of her neck. As he fastened it around her throat, Nina met his eyes over her shoulder, and the look they exchanged could have melted miles of northern ice. Matthias moved away hurriedly. Inej almost laughed. So that was all it took to send the drüskelle scurrying and bring the boy back.

Jesper was next, panting from his run back to the crossroads. He winked at her as she placed the sack over his head. They could hear the guards calling back and forth.

Inej locked Matthias’ collar and stood on tiptoe to place the hood on his head. But when she moved to pull Nina’s hood down, the Grisha fluttered her eyes rapidly, bobbing her head toward the wagon door. She still wanted to know how Kaz was going to lock them in.

“Watch,” Inej mouthed.

Kaz signaled to Inej, and she leapt down. She shut the wagon door, fastened the padlock, and slid the bolt home. A second later the opposite side of the door pushed open. Kaz had simply removed the hinges. It was a trick they’d used plenty of times when a lock was too complicated to pick quickly or they wanted to make a theft look like an inside job. Ideal for faking suicides, Kaz had once told her, and she’d never been sure if he was sincere.

Inej took a last look at the road. The men had finished with the tree. The big one was dusting off his hands and slapping the horse’s back. The other was already approaching the front of the wagon. Inej gripped the lip of the door and swung herself up, squeezing inside. Immediately, Kaz started replacing the hinges. Inej shoved a hood over Nina’s surprised face, then took her place beside Jesper.

But even in the dim light, she could tell Kaz was moving too slowly, his gloved fingers clumsier than she’d ever seen them. What was wrong with him? And why had he frozen at the wagon door? Something had made him hesitate, but what?