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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

“Matthias,” she would whisper, his name so soft on her lips. These were the worst dreams, and when he woke, he hated himself almost as much as he hated her. To know that he could betray himself, betray his country again even in sleep, to know that—after everything she’d done—some sick part of him still hungered after her … it was too much.

Tonight was a bad dream, very bad. She was wearing blue silk, clothes far more luxurious than anything he’d ever seen her in; some kind of gauzy veil was caught up in her hair, the lamplight glinting off of it like caught rain. Djel, she smelled good. The mossy damp was still there, but perfume, too. Nina loved luxury and this was expensive—roses and something else, something his pauper’s nose didn’t recognize. She pressed her soft lips to his temple, and he could swear she was crying.

“Matthias.”

“Nina,” he managed.

“Oh, Saints, Matthias,” she whispered. “Please wake up.”

And then he was awake, and he knew he’d gone mad because she was here, in his cell, kneeling beside him, her hand resting gently on his chest. “Matthias, please.”

The sound of her voice, pleading with him. He’d dreamed of this. Sometimes she pleaded for mercy. Sometimes there were other things she begged for.

He reached up and touched her face. She had the softest skin. He’d laughed at her for it once. No real soldier had skin like that, he’d told her—pampered, coddled. He’d mocked the lushness of her body, ashamed of his own response to her. He cupped the warm curve of her cheek, felt the soft brush of her hair. So lovely. So real. It wasn’t fair.

Then he registered the bloody wrappings on his hands. Pain rushed at him as he came fully awake—cracked ribs, aching knuckles. He’d chipped a tooth. He wasn’t sure when, but he’d cut his tongue against it at some point. His mouth still held the coppery taste of blood. The wolves. They’d made him murder wolves.

He was awake.

“Nina?”

There were tears in her beautiful green eyes. Rage coursed through him. She had no right to tears, no right to pity.

“Shhhh, Matthias. We’re here to get you out.”

What game was this? What new cruelty? He’d just learned to survive in this monstrous place, and now she’d come to heap some fresh torture on him.

He launched himself forward, flipping her to the ground, hands fastened tight around her throat, straddling her so that his knees pinned her arms to the ground. He knew damn well that Nina with her hands free was a deadly thing.

“Nina,” he gritted out. She clawed at his hands. “Witch,” he hissed, leaning over her. He saw her eyes widen, her face getting redder. “Beg me,” he said. “Beg me for your life.”

He heard a click, and a gravelly voice said, “Hands off her, Helvar.”

Someone behind him had pressed a gun to his neck. Matthias didn’t spare him a glance. “Go ahead and shoot me,” he said. He dug his fingertips deeper into Nina’s neck—nothing would deprive him of this. Nothing.