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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

A little bald man was seated fully clothed at a round table draped in ivory baize, his hands neatly folded beside an untouched silver coffee tray. Nina Zenik stood behind him, swathed in the red silk kefta that advertised her status as a Grisha Heartrender, one palm pressed to his forehead, the other to the back of his neck. She was tall and built like the figurehead of a ship carved by a generous hand. They were silent, as if they’d been frozen there at the table. There wasn’t even a bed in the room, just a narrow settee where Nina curled up every night.

When Kaz had asked Nina why, she’d simply said, “I don’t want anyone getting ideas.”

“A man doesn’t need a bed to get ideas, Nina.”

Nina fluttered her lashes. “What would you know about it, Kaz? Take those gloves off, and we’ll see what ideas come to mind.”

Kaz had kept his cool eyes on her until she’d dropped her gaze. He wasn’t interested in flirting with Nina Zenik, and he happened to know she wasn’t remotely interested in him. Nina just liked to flirt with everything. He’d once seen her make eyes at a pair of shoes she fancied in a shop window.

Nina and the bald man sat, unspeaking, as the minutes ticked by, and when the hour on the clock chimed, he rose and kissed her hand.

“Go,” she said in solemn tones. “Be at peace.”

The bald man kissed her hand again, tears in his eyes. “Thank you.”

As soon as the client was down the hall, Kaz stepped out of the bedroom and knocked on Nina’s door.

She opened it cautiously, keeping the chain latched. “Oh,” she said when she saw Kaz. “You.”

She didn’t look particularly happy to see him. No surprise. Kaz Brekker at your door was rarely a good thing. She unhooked the chain and let him show himself in as she shucked off the red kefta, revealing a slip of satin so thin it barely counted as cloth.

“Saints, I hate this thing,” she said, kicking the kefta away and pulling a threadbare dressing gown from a drawer.

“What’s wrong with it?” Kaz asked.

“It isn’t made right. And it itches.” The kefta was of Kerch manufacture, not Ravkan—a costume, not a uniform. Kaz knew Nina never wore it on the streets; it was simply too risky for Grisha. Her membership in the Dregs meant anyone acting against her would risk retribution from the gang, but payback wouldn’t matter much to Nina if she was on a slaver ship bound for who knew where.

Nina threw herself into a chair at the table and wriggled her feet out of her jeweled slippers, digging her toes into the plush white carpet. “Ahhh,” she said contentedly. “So much better.” She shoved one of the cakes from the coffee service into her mouth and mumbled, “What do you want, Kaz?”

“You have crumbs on your cleavage.”

“Don’t care,” she said, taking another bite of cake. “So hungry.”