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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

The baleen began to bead around his lips. Water was seeping in. How far had the river taken them? How far did they have left to go? He still had one hand gripped around Bo Yul-Bayur’s collar. The Shu boy was smaller than Kaz; hopefully he had enough air.

Bright flashes of memory sparked through Kaz’s mind. A cup of hot chocolate in his mittened hands, Jordie warning him to let it cool before he took a sip. Ink drying on the page as he’d signed the deed to the Crow Club. The first time he’d seen Inej at the Menagerie, in purple silk, her eyes lined with kohl. The bone-handled knife he’d given her. The sobs that had come from behind the door of her room at the Slat the night she’d made her first kill. The sobs he’d ignored. Kaz remembered her perched on the sill of his attic window, sometime during that first year after he’d brought her into the Dregs. She’d been feeding the crows that congregated on the roof.

“You shouldn’t make friends with crows,” he’d told her.

“Why not?” she asked.

He’d looked up from his desk to answer, but whatever he’d been about to say had vanished on his tongue.

The sun was out for once, and Inej had turned her face to it. Her eyes were shut, her oil-black lashes fanned over her cheeks. The harbor wind had lifted her dark hair, and for a moment Kaz was a boy again, sure that there was magic in this world.

“Why not?” she’d repeated, eyes still closed.

He said the first thing that popped into his head. “They don’t have any manners.”

“Neither do you, Kaz.” She’d laughed, and if he could have bottled the sound and gotten drunk on it every night, he would have. It terrified him.

Kaz took a last breath as the baleen dissolved and water flooded in. He squinted against the rush of the water, hoping to see some hint of daylight. The river knocked him against the wall of the tunnel. The pressure in his chest grew. I’m stronger than this, he told himself. My will is greater. But he could hear Jordie laughing. No, little brother. No one is stronger. You’ve cheated death too many times. Greed may do your bidding, but death serves no man.

Kaz had almost drowned that night in the harbor, kicking hard in the dark, borne aloft by Jordie’s corpse. There was no one and nothing to carry him now. He tried to think of his brother, of revenge, of Pekka Rollins tied to a chair in the house on Zelverstraat, trade orders stuffed down his throat as Kaz forced him to remember Jordie’s name. But all he could think of was Inej. She had to live. She had to have made it out of the Ice Court. And if she hadn’t, then he had to live to rescue her.

The ache in his lungs was unbearable. He needed to tell her … what? That she was lovely and brave and better than anything he deserved. That he was twisted, crooked, wrong, but not so broken that he couldn’t pull himself together into some semblance of a man for her. That without meaning to, he’d begun to lean on her, to look for her, to need her near. He needed to thank her for his new hat.