Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)
Inej canted her head back, seeking that patch of sky. It still seemed impossibly distant. How far was it? Twenty feet? Thirty? It might as well have been miles. She was going to die here, slowly, horribly on the coals. They were all going to die—Kaz, Nina, Jesper, Matthias, Wylan—and it was her fault.
No. No, it wasn’t.
She hefted herself up another foot—Kaz brought us here—and then another. She forced herself to find the next hold. Kaz and his greed. She didn’t feel guilty. She wasn’t sorry. She was just mad. Mad at Kaz for attempting this insane job, furious with herself for agreeing to it.
And why had she? To pay off her debt? Or because despite all good sense and better intentions, she’d let herself feel something for the bastard of the Barrel?
* * *
When Inej entered Tante Heleen’s salon on that long ago night, Kaz Brekker had been waiting, dressed in darkest gray, leaning on his crow’s head cane. The salon was furnished in gold and teal, one wall patterned entirely in peacock feathers. Inej hated every inch of the Menagerie—the parlor where she and the other girls were forced to coo and bat their lashes at prospective clients, her bedroom that had been made up to look like some farcical version of a Suli caravan, festooned in purple silk and redolent with incense—but Tante Heleen’s salon was the worst. It was the room for beatings, for Heleen’s worst rages.
Inej had tried to escape when she’d first arrived in Ketterdam. She’d gotten two blocks from the Menagerie, still in her silks, dazed by the light and chaos of West Stave, running without direction, before Cobbet had clamped a meaty hand on the nape of her neck and hauled her back. Heleen took her into the salon and beat her badly enough that she hadn’t been able to work for a week. For the month after, Heleen had kept her in golden chains, not even letting her go down to the parlor. When she’d finally unlocked the shackles, Heleen had said, “You owe me for a month of lost income. Run again, and I’ll have you thrown in Hellgate for breach of contract.”
That night, she’d entered the salon with dread, and when she’d seen Kaz Brekker there, her dread only doubled. Dirtyhands must have informed on her. He’d told Tante Heleen that she’d spoken out of turn, that she’d been trying to make trouble.
But Heleen had leaned back in her silken chair and said, “Well, little lynx, it seems you’re someone else’s problem now. Apparently Per Haskell has a taste for Suli girls. He’s purchased your indenture for a very tidy sum.”
Inej swallowed. “I’m moving to a different house?”
Heleen waved a hand. “Haskell does own a pleasure house—if you can call it that—somewhere in the lower Barrel, but you’d be a waste of his money there—though you’d certainly learn just how kind Tante Heleen has been to you. No, Haskell wants you for his very own.”