Underworld Bride Trials 1 Playboy King - Meg Xuemei X. Page 0,1

around me, but I was careful to deploy it as rarely as possible, for fear of leaving a magical imprint. Opening the portal to this realm worried me enough, and I silently prayed for my magic signature to fade before the bloodhounds got a whiff of it.

“That’s why we’re here to do one last job,” I said, my jaw set with tension and determination.

“How can the four of us breach Hell?” Archer grunted, appraising me and knowing I hurt worse than I looked.

I wasn’t a stranger to the anxiety in his hard, grey eyes. My second was terrified that he couldn’t keep me alive this time, but he always worried about that.

“We’ll figure it out, as we always do,” I said. “Right now, let’s find shelter. I need to take care of your wounds before they get infected.”

I could heal others faster than I healed myself.

Dux tilted his head to the side like a big bird listening to something particular. A knowing smile broke across his face. “I hear the sound of water. A stream nearby.”

“North,” I agreed.

We prowled through the woods in formation, our blades and guns in our hands and our eyes and ears alert.

Fayette rushed toward the stream as soon as she spotted it. I hastened after her.

“I like Earth,” Dux said behind us. He’d take the first watch.

Archer grunted a noncommittal response.

I squatted at the edge of the bank, and Fayette approached to tend to me first.

“Take care of yourself,” I told her as I studied my reflection on the surface of the water before I splashed the clear water onto my face.

My silvery hair streaked with pink pooled around my neck. I’d been keeping the same length and style ever since my nursemaid, Dulcina, severed my ankle-length braid when the usurper Ice King grabbed the tail of it at the brink of the portal to drag me back to his ice castle and my prison. Dulcina sacrificed her life for me like the rest of my fallen guards.

A chunk of ice stuck in the back of my throat at the memory of Ragnarö impaling my nursemaid with his ice spear, her blood splashing onto the thick ice. It hadn’t been the first time I’d seen so much blood, but the sight still shocked me numb and haunted my recurrent nightmares.

I wouldn’t grieve for her or any of them, not now. Not yet. I would grieve properly for all of them when I beheaded my mate and my sworn enemy. I swallowed the cold lump and pushed the sorrow down to the depths of my soul. My ice-blue eyes flecked with fiery ambers stared back at me in approval from my reflection. I could see my dark eyelashes casting long shadows on my high cheekbones, in stark contrast to my nearly translucent skin that was icy to my own touch.

I turned to Fayette with a longing sigh, and glanced around, pondering. “We could use a bath while Dux goes scouting and Archer guards us.”

After all the years of running together, I didn’t require much privacy from my team. If it weren’t for the consideration of the possible new threats on this unknown planet, I wouldn’t mind undressing and getting into the stream.

Even if there was impending danger, I could handle it. Water and ice were my elements since my birth. Just as I started to unbutton my jacket over my armor, a crack tore through the sky.

A chilly wind swept through the woods, stirring up a swirl of leaves, twigs, and dirt, shattering my reflection.

Birds stopped chirping and small animals shot toward their dens through the undergrowth.

“To the queen!” Archer shouted and dashed toward me.

Dux was a little farther away, as he’d been scouting the perimeter, but I heard his whistle of response and his footfalls as he charged back toward us.

I ran toward Archer with Fayette covering my flank, her fear palpable, as we sought a thicker canopy to take cover.

The stench of ozone and black blood permeated the air, indicating that the bloodhounds had tracked us to Earth and were about to drop upon us at any second.

They were bred by my ex-mate to be undead, formidable hunters. Even when we killed them, they would always come back, more savage and more intelligent. Every time they were reborn, they gained more knowledge about us and became more difficult to kill. We must figure out a way to destroy them permanently.

My team was made of the toughest warriors, yet I’d still lost three of them