The ground next to Eric's feet shifted. Another Mannequin Man revealed himself, far too close for comfort. Eric forgot for a moment where he was and tried to run, but slipped harshly onto the ice. He slammed onto his back.

He rolled over onto his front and tried to stand. A hand grabbed his ankle, preventing him from standing up. He could feel the ice beneath him start to crack. Fear paralysed him. The hand let go of his ankle but still Eric didn't dare move. The cracking got louder.

The men hidden in the snow all rose to their feet. They didn't dare move either. Julian watched on the side-lines and hissed. He was starving for his soul. Eric slowly rose, fearing the slightest wrong movement would spell the end of his life.

Silence enveloped them. Eric looked at the Mannequin Man closest to him. In a sudden flash, the man fell through the ice. Eric's eyes widened. More of the men were falling through the ice as it shattered beneath their combined weight.

He made a run for it. The loud sounds of cracking and the men falling into the water made him run faster. He needed to make it to the other side, the safe side of the riverbank.

The ice beneath him faltered. His legs entered the water as he slowly fell in, still running as he entered. The coldness of the water took his breath away. Before long, he was completely submerged.

Any fight he had left in him seeped through every pore. It felt like a thousand freezing needles pierced his flesh. He couldn't breathe. His eyes opened to see the Mannequin men floating dead in the water. One of them floated right next to him.

Eric yelled. Only bubbles escaped his mouth. He kicked up and reached the surface of the water. He inhaled greatly and tried to stay afloat. He shook violently. He felt every organ in his body shrink with cold.

He wasn't far from the riverbank. He kicked his legs with all the strength he could muster and found himself somehow moving forward. He kicked and splashed around, almost forgetting how to swim properly.

Some of the Mannequin Men sprang to life. They dived to the top of the water, loudly splashing so Eric could hear the impending danger. He tried to swim faster, but he felt as though he was getting slower. Three Mannequin Men closed in on him like sharks who had sensed blood.

Their masks were haunting, terrorising Eric with just a single look. He cried out as he reached out for the riverbank. His broken fingertips touched the frosty grass. With one last kick, he pushed himself up onto the ground.

Using his knees to propel himself up, Eric managed to stand on shaky legs. His entire body shook and it took him a moment to gain his balance. He didn't have time to recover from what had just happened, so he stumbled forwards into the trees.

They were getting denser the further Eric managed to walk. He picked up the pace once his energy began to replenish and he kept looking behind him to make sure he wasn't being closely followed by his attackers. There was no sign of Julian or the Mannequin Men. Had they left him alone?

Feeling doubtful, he used the trees to drive himself forward. His laboured breathing echoed through the forest, drawing attention to his location. He couldn't control it.

A new feeling of dread washed over him. He recognised the area. He had staggered near a path that was dangerously similar to one that led to the Bellisario family home. The broken stones brought back painful memories despite their fleeting appearance the week before.

Ready to leave in the opposite direction, a familiar yell stopped him in his tracks. Somebody was shouting and screaming for their life. The fear that materialised didn't prevent him from going to the source of the screams. Someone needed his help and he had a sinking feeling that the distressed was one of his friends.

Ashes of the Innocent (Abyssal Sanctuary #2)Read this story for FREE!