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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

“How dare you come here under the auspices of my House?” Heleen hissed. “The house that clothed you and fed you? And where is Adjala?”

Inej opened her mouth, but panic rose up, tightening her throat, choking the words before they could come out. Her tongue felt useless and numb. Once more, she was looking into the eyes of the woman who had beaten her, threatened her, bought her once, and then sold her again and again.

Heleen grabbed Inej by the shoulders and shook her. “Where is my girl?”

Inej looked down at the fingers digging into her flesh. For a brief second, every horror came back to her, and she truly was a wraith, a ghost taking flight from a body that had given her only pain. No. A body that had given her strength. A body that had carried her over the rooftops of Ketterdam, that had served her in battle, that had brought her up six stories in the dark of a soot-stained chimney.

Inej seized Heleen’s wrist and twisted it hard to the right. Heleen yelped, her knees buckling as the guards surged forward.

“I threw your girl in the ice moat,” Inej snarled, barely recognizing her own voice. Her other hand seized Heleen’s throat, squeezing. “And she’s better off there than with you.”

Then strong arms were tugging at her, pulling her off the older woman, hauling her back.

Inej panted, heart racing. I could have killed her, she thought. I felt her pulse beneath my palm. I should have killed her.

Heleen got to her feet, whimpering and coughing as onlookers moved to help her. “If she’s here, then Brekker is as well!” she shrieked.

At that moment, as if in agreement, the bells of the Black Protocol began to sound, loud and insistent. There was a stunned second of inertia. Then the entire rotunda seemed to explode into action as guards rushed to their posts and commanders began calling orders.

One of the guards, clearly the captain, said something in Fjerdan. The only word Inej recognized was prison. He grabbed the silk of her cape and shouted in Kerch, “Who is on your team? What is your target?”

“I will not speak,” said Inej.

“You’ll sing if we want you to,” spat the guard.

Heleen’s laugh was low and rich with pleasure. “I’ll see you hanged. And Brekker, too.”

“The bridge is closed,” someone declared. “No one else is getting on or off the island tonight!” Angry guests turned to anyone who would listen, demanding explanations.

The guards dragged Inej through the courtyard, past gaping onlookers, and out the ringwall gate as the bells continued to toll. They did not bother with gentleness or diplomacy now.

“I told you you’d wear my silks again, little lynx,” Heleen called from the courtyard. The gate was already lowering, as the guards sealed it in accordance with Black Protocol. “You’ll hang in them now.”

The gate slammed closed, but Inej could swear that she still heard Heleen’s laughter.