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When the black skull and crossbones carved into Alexander Blaine Underhill III's left pec began to smoke, he knew tonight wasn't the night he was going to get his newest cross-stitching tapestry finished. His escape from the Den of Womanly Pursuits, the hellhole he'd been imprisoned in by a black witch for the last hundred and fifty years, was about to get complicated. "Look pretty, boys, we're going to be entertaining."
"Shaved two days ago. Good enough?" Nigel Aquarian was sprinting beside Blaine, his shitkickers thudding on the stainless steel floor of the Hall of Embroidery. He was wearing only dark leather pants and a pale pink rose tattooed on his left cheek. His palms had turned to blackened charcoal, and burning embers were sloughing off onto the floor. "Forgot the cologne, though. Never remember to smell nice after I party with starving piranhas." He held up the pinkie finger he'd had time to grow back only halfway. "I hate fish."
Blaine leapt over a breeding pit for vipers that was blocking his path. "Spiders are worse."
Nigel grimaced. "Bet the witch is good with spiders."
Blaine refused to revisit that particular hell in his mind. "Toughened me up. It was fun."
Nigel shot him a knowing look. "Yeah, I bet it was."
One hundred and fifty years at the non-existent mercy of Death's grandma, Angelica, had given new meaning to the definition of hell. The black witch was diabolical in her quest to become the most powerful practitioner in history, and she wasn't exactly the nurturing type when it came to her experiments. Ruthless evil bitch from hell was probably a better way to describe her. But after a century of planning their escape, it was finally hasta la vista time for Blaine and his boys.
Blaine flipped a grin at one of the security cameras he'd disabled only moments before. "Hope you miss us." He was so jonesing for a little mano a mano to make her pay for all she'd done, but his brain was the one thing she hadn't managed to mess with, so he was hitting the road instead of gunning for a battle he couldn't win. Embarrassing as hell that one grandma could kick the shit out of four badass warriors. Not going to be posting that on his online dating profile when he got out.
Green and pink disco lights began to flash, and the screams of men being tortured filled the air.
"The fire alarm? Come on, guys. Can't you two keep the smoke in your pants for five minutes?" Jarvis Swain sprinted up beside them. A checkered headband was keeping his light brown hair off his face, and he was streaked with sweat and blood from the spar he'd been winning when Blaine had pulled the trigger on the escape. For Jarvis, a practice session ended only when his opponent was on the bleeding edge of death. He was clenching his samurai sword in his fist.
"Nice pants." Nigel nodded at the yellow tulip cross-stitched on the hip of Jarvis's badass martial arts outfit. He raised an eyebrow at Blaine. "Is that your delicate touch, Trio?" His question smacked with friendly insult.
Blaine ignored Nigel's sarcastic reference to his pedigree. Far as he was concerned, everyone he was related to could go to hell. Hoped they already had, in fact.
He looked over his shoulder to check on the progress of the most important member of their team, Christian Slayer, but the Hall of Embroidery was empty. "Where's lover boy?"
"He detoured for his girlfriend when we passed through Flower Appreciation." Jarvis hurled his sword at a small black box tacked onto the seventeen-foot high ceiling. "He caught her scent, said she was nearby, and took off to get her." The blade hit cleanly, sparks exploded, and the alarm went silent.
Without breaking stride, Blaine leapt up and grabbed the sword. "We're in the middle of a daring escape from our own personal torture chamber, and he's taking time to get a girl?"
"That's what he claimed," Nigel said. "He can't lie worth shit, so I tend to believe him."
They continued to haul ass toward the door at the end of the hallway. Freedom was less than fifty yards away. "Well, damn." Blaine hurled the sword blade-first at Jarvis's heart.
"That's really sweet of him."
Jarvis snatched the sword out of the air easily, his hand unerringly finding the handle.
"Sure. It's not every man who will strand his team in a war zone so he can go rescue a girl." Still running hard, Blaine pulled out a pair of small blue balls from a sack strapped to his hip. "Of course, I'm going to have to kick the hell out of him for doing it, and there's no way he's going on future missions with us, but I admire that kind of choice."