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Chapter 12

The skittering comes faster. Closer.

“Leave the phone under the table and hide. When you hear me say so, blow the whistle in the bag!”

Rabbit dives into the bag and I push the phone under the scary mirrir where it disappears into the darkness. I can feel Rabbit squirming to find the whistle as I search for a big enough patch of shadow to hide me.

I crouch behind a giant pot that stinks of rusty ice. I can feel the cold seep through my mittens as the skittering grinds into the room and the Cold One drags herself near me. Her toenails on the floor hurt my ears and I fight really hard to keep from whimpering in pain.

The Cold One scuttles over to the table and leans on it so hard it groans. The small weight of the whistle is suddenly in the palm of my hand and fear steals more of my breath than the cold. I watch her curl her spindly hands over the edge and press her face right against the surface. I think for a second about wet tongues getting suck on poles but I bet the Cold One doesn’t stick to anything.

A horrible sucking sound makes me clap my hands over my ears. Frog and Rabbit burrow deeper into my coat and all I want in the world is to scream for her to stop. When I peek, I am instantly sorry I did as I watch jagged spikes grow from the bent back and hunched shoulders to make her look like a great big, scary, ice porcupine. The house shakes and groans as the noise stops and I swear it’s even colder; so bad my throat hurts when I breathe.

“Do it NOW!” I hear Marsalla scream and I take a deep, burning cold breath and blow on the whistle so hard, my face heats up. I’m exhausted and panting when I stop just in time to hear the little phone I left under the table say; “Run like hell! Don’t forget the necklace till help!” before it explodes in a burst of orange light.

When the bits of toy phone hit the ice, black goo leaks out and the Cold One roars. I don’t stick around to see any more and I do exactly what Marsalla sais. I hold the glowing candy out in front of me with Rabbit in my other arm and run as fast I my shaking legs and flopping bag will let me.

It’s seconds before I hear angry growling and scratching behind me and I dare to look back. Black ooze splatters around the Cold One as she runs after us, making such a mess, she slips in it, stumbling to the ice floor as I flee around a corner.

The candy jewel flutters when I make a wrong turn and gleams bright in the dark when I’m right. I nearly scream with joy at the sight of the front door but I feel a snag on my hood.

“Cheater!” The Cold One screams. “Sneak thief! Tresspasser!”

I hear the cricking whine of ice forming on my hood and pull hard to get away from the leaking ice monster. My hood doesn’t rip, it snaps where she touched it. In my panic, the candy necklace gets so hot, I have no coice but to throw it at her.

When it hits her in the cheek, a huge black mark of rot forms. I don’t watch it spread, I yank hard and run away from the wailing. The house is shaking under my feet. The wail becomes a howl when my mittens hit the door knob. I don’t even have to pull; the door crumbles to shards of frozen wood. I jump over them, side stepping the trap door, and reach the gate trembling all over. I don’t trust looking back anymore, not till I’m off the sidewalk and halfway into the empty street.

I hear Frog and Rabbit gasp as we all watch the house fall in on itself. Steam rises from the black ooze creeping over the whole thing. A blackend, clawed hand reaches out of the doorway, scraping at the wood. She screams louder, hissing and spitting under the rubble. I take a step back and bump into something soft. I hand hands on my shoulder and I look up to see the frozen prince smiling down at me. He gives me one calming pat before gliding around me.

His feet leave no prints as he passe the gate and walks silently up to the scratching hand. He looks at the Cold One, watches her try and crawl from the junk and I can see his skin glow golden brown. Light pours from his skin and with one final scream and a blinding flash, I’m pushed back by the force of a warm wind so hard, I pass out.