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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

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In a windowless room draped in black and crimson, Matthias listened silently to the strange words coming out of the pale, freakish boy’s mouth. Matthias knew monsters, and one glance at Kaz Brekker had told him this was a creature who had spent too long in the dark—he’d brought something back with him when he’d crawled into the light. Matthias could sense it around him. He knew others laughed at Fjerdan superstition, but he trusted his gut. Or he had, until Nina. That had been one of the worst effects of her betrayal, the way he’d been forced to second-guess himself. That doubt had almost been his undoing at Hellgate, where instinct was everything.

He’d heard Brekker’s name in prison, and the words associated with him—criminal prodigy, ruthless, amoral. They called him Dirtyhands because there was no sin he would not commit for the right price. And now this demon was talking about breaking into the Ice Court, about getting Matthias to commit treason. Again, Matthias corrected himself. I’d be committing treason again.

He kept his eyes on Brekker. He was keenly aware of Nina watching him from the other side of the room. He could still smell her rose perfume in his nose and even in his mouth; the sharp flower scent rested against his tongue, as if he were tasting her.

Matthias had woken bound and tied to a chair in what looked like some kind of gambling parlor. Nina must have brought him out of the stupor she’d placed him in. She was there, along with the bronze girl. Jesper, the long-limbed boy from the boat, sat in a corner with his bony knees drawn up, and a boy with ruddy gold curls doodled aimlessly on a scrap of paper atop a round table made for playing cards, occasionally gnawing on his thumb. The table was covered with a crimson cloth flocked with a repeating pattern of crows, and a wheel similar to the one used in the Hellshow arena but with different markings had been propped against a black lacquered wall. Matthias had the feeling that someone—probably Nina—had tended to more of his injuries while he was unconscious. The thought made him sick. Better clean pain than Grisha corruption.

Then Brekker had started talking—about a drug called jurda parem, about an impossibly high reward, and about the absurd idea of attempting a raid on the Ice Court. Matthias wasn’t sure what might be fact or fiction, but it hardly mattered. When Brekker finally finished, Matthias simply said, “No.”

“Believe me when I say this, Helvar: I know getting knocked out and waking up in strange surroundings isn’t the friendliest way to start a partnership, but you didn’t give us many options, so try to open your mind to the possibilities.”

“You could have come to me on your knees, and my answer would be the same.”

“You do understand I can have you back at Hellgate in a matter of hours? Once poor Muzzen is in the infirmary, the switch will be easy.”