Arctic Fox Chapters 1 and 2
Last week I shared the first 2 chapters of Thread, the series opener for Kingdom Rising, which is available for FREE on all platforms now. I’m currently wrapping up the AI audio for the serialized version of the miniseries and plan on releasing a digital boxed set soon.
This week I wanted to share a sneak peek at what’s coming next. Arctic Fox isn’t currently live except as part of the ongoing serialization of the next miniseries, Royal Council. But if you enjoy the sneak peeks or behind-the-scenes character studies, I’ll share a bit and you can read it all for FREE if you check out the serial should you feel you need to know how it ends.
A Brief Foreword by the Author: Fox and Artie are part of the six original characters in the Draoithe Saga. Together with Javier and Isabell, and Luke and Eli, they own and operate an immortal retreat shielding a kingdom rising to defeat a shadowy evil threatening the dream. This story isn’t about that. It’s a look back when Fox lost his identity as Duncan O’Sullivan, first found Artie, and then had to discover how important she was to who he was. Oh, and there’s a glimpse at what happens when a vampire becomes afflicted with bloodlust that matters to the next stories in Royal Council, but you’ll see, OK
Arctic Fox Chapter 1 Fox A1607 Voyeur
It was long ago, before trains and automobiles, before electric lights, and indoor plumbing. Those would come. He would marvel at them, accept new technologies and learn them as he’d always religiously studied magic and immortals, but later. Before all of that, there was a loch nymph.
He caught her bathing in a loch in Scotland. She was so tiny he watched transfixed, wondering if she were some fairy or sprite come to life from his imagination as he pushed an errant tree branch aside to gain a better view.
His fox sat up to take notice, whining in intense appreciation for the scene. His natural inquisitiveness rooted him to the spot to see what happened next.
When she finished bathing, she climbed out of the loch to sit naked in the sun on a flat rock, thinking she was alone. Exquisite beauty, in a woman too small to exist, graced his view, and if he ever wondered if he was a man, she proved it to him. She let the sun warm her as she plaited her platinum hair.
It irked him when she pulled her dress back over her head. But he’d memorized every curve and knew she had no sharp angles, no matter how ridiculously outsized her smock looked.
She seemed like a maiden, but she dressed as a servant. He kept his distance, unsure how to approach her or if he should approach her. Still unsure if she was real, Fox followed her to a castle.
Fox waited a while, thinking, arguing with himself. She wasn’t what he sought. Women weren’t dragons. Something about the tiny woman unsettled his mind and wouldn’t leave him alone. Finally, he knew he waged a war against himself and winning wars of an internal nature was never possible.
He gave up the fight, approached the castle gate, and asked for hospitality as a traveler. Discovering if the loch nymph was real and discovering how she piqued his curiosity in such a disconcerting manner was more important than seeking a long-lost dragon. If Smoke survived, he could wait.
Shown to a room and offered hospitality, a servant invited a man of the O’Sullivan clan to the great hall for dinner. It seemed his family name still carried weight even so far from home.
He learned the owner of the castle was Lord Lothlian. The castle was silent, as if holding its breath. Fox hadn’t liked the feel of the place, but he wanted to see her again. He needed to know more about her. Staying at the castle was the easiest way to accomplish his task.
At dinner, Lord Lothlian drank heavily and seemed to enjoy making a mess of things. No one at the table seemed appalled by his behavior except Fox. Perhaps Duncan had been alone, a wanderer for too long, or perhaps he was too far from his home in Ireland and decent manners no longer existed.
Fox’s family had money and wealth in Ireland, and he had station and privilege. He’d distanced himself some years after learning he was a fox shifter. Having once been a king had left its mark, even if that had been decades ago. Those born to rule carried that weight for life, even if they ran from it.
His father had quietly given him his inheritance on his fiftieth birthday. Fox had enough means to sustain himself. He was socially within his rights to demand and expect guest rights, even if Duncan O’Sullivan had long outlived any normal man.
Lothlian, however, was a pig of a man. His servants likely knew nothing of a decent lord, as the castle was far from any city center. At least his servants knew the code. He desired only to see the tiny loch nymph again. As he bided his time, suffering polite formalities, Fox cheered himself thinking the family library had information which the Lord of the manor didn’t know.
Fox was financially stable, and he often visited castles to research in their libraries. He offered his services as a scribe to gain access to family records and stories. No matter what else he might learn, it was the loch nymph he wanted to know about.
He’d learned a great deal about magic and shapeshifters. He needed to learn what he could about himself and the other immortals. If he located the dragon, he might get help. Smoke could read because Fox taught him.
He encountered a few first order shifters. He met gryphons, a cockatrice, and a marchosian. Fox even met a couple of blood demons once. Thank God immortal shifter blood wasn’t on their menu. Drinking from people caused bloodlust in some immortals, a peculiar affliction which diseased the mind. It was a serious problem for vampires. Fox wasn’t sure if it could affect demons.
He met the Lord of the estate at dinner. Lothlian was nothing more than a brutish human. He lacked any of the characteristics of an immortal or a lord. It didn’t matter. If his family had ever worked with immortals, the archives might contain something useful.
Fox offered his scribe services to Lord Lothlian despite his distaste for the man, and Lothlian granted him access to the family archives and library as dinner went on.
Then he saw her, the loch nymph who’d captured his attention. She was serving the guests more wine.
When she got to Lord Lothlian, her hands shook a little from fear, and she spilled the wine on the big man’s sleeve as she poured. She tried to apologize, but he backhanded her so hard her tiny frame impacted the stone wall. The crack to her skull resounded in the room. She slumped to the ground, unconscious. Fury rolled through Duncan.
Fox could smell her blood mixed with her scent of snow in the pines as he bent to inspect her condition. He didn’t know when he had moved to kneel beside her.
Lothlian laughed and roared something about inept servants and continued drinking. Duncan was sure Lothlian fractured her skull. She was dying, and Lothlian didn’t even care that he’d killed her.
“My lord, your servant was weak. I believe her to be dying. I have some skills, with your permission?” He requested Lothlian to allow him to tend to her wounds.
“O’Sullivan, if she pleases you, keep the wench for yourself. She was too small to be a good kitchen maid. Perhaps she’s better suited to warm your sheets.”
Lothlian laughed as if he couldn’t see any of the frail beauty of the tiny woman. Lothlian was an enormous lout.
Likely the tiny loch nymph was beneath his notice. He’d casually sized up Duncan O’Sullivan and assumed she was more suited for a smaller man.
Duncan ignored the implication that Lothlian was the dominant male. He had no false confidence. He knew he could best Lothlian and no fight would ever happen.
Duncan had been born to power and magic. Lothlian was the typical low-level intellect, heavy-drinking brute. Power had gone to his head in a bad way. Lothlian had already laughingly given Duncan exactly what he came for.
Duncan O’Sullivan embraced his heritage for a moment. Raised as Irish nobility, he gave quiet orders for his loch nymph to be moved carefully to his quarters. Duncan asked for a tray of food to be sent there as well. He then faced Lothlian.
“Thank you for your generosity, my Lord. I hadn’t expected to have a servant cater to my needs. She’s probably more suited to serving me, as you say.”
Duncan let the man believe what he wished. Lothlian roared with laughter.
“By your leave, my lord, I’m suddenly quite interested in the apartments you’ve been so generous to loan me.”
Duncan requested to be excused from the rest of the dinner. Lothlian waved him away, still laughing and drinking.
Duncan made his way to his room in a hurry once he left the great hall. He was seriously worried the loch nymph beauty might die. The fox inside growled in irritation at the thought.
Arctic Fox Chapter 2 Fox Life Mate
A servant was placing the tray of food on a low table when he arrived. The loch nymph was lying on the bed in the other room without moving. He asked the servant what the loch nymph’s name was.
“Arturista Jonsdottir, my lord. Her family was Norse, but she’s an orphan now. The fever took her mother and father.” The older lady looked at the floor as she spoke.
Not a fairy or a pixie then, merely a starved little orphan girl. Still, she was beautiful in a way few women ever were.
“Thank you for bringing her and the food. I’ll look after her now.”
He dismissed the servant, and the old lady backed out of the room, closing the door as she left.
Arturista was dying in his bed. There was blood and cranial fluid soaking into the pillow. There was no way to save her. He knew it. The fox inside whined piteously.
She was in no fit condition to reply to any question he asked her. Her breathing was shallow. He agonized over his decision.
If he bit her and turned her into a shifter, she might lose her mind and kill herself. If he didn’t, she would die before the sun rose.
Duncan’s inner fox whined and raged. Lothlian would die for what had happened to Duncan’s mate. His fox wanted the frail creature.
Never had he been so drawn to another. He couldn’t allow her to die. He had to save her, even if it meant he still lost her.
Duncan shifted his head and bit her wrist. He licked the wound hard, pressing his tongue into it, and bruising her, forcing his saliva into the lacerated flesh.
He tilted her head so her jaw fell open. Duncan brought his wrist to his mouth and slit it open with his fangs, then held it over her face. His blood flowed into her mouth. He caressed her neck, coaxing her to swallow.
She drank his essence down. He licked his wounds, then licked hers, and sank onto the mattress beside her. Turning another person into a shifter was draining.
He lay down beside her, watching for a sign she would heal. Duncan was as fully dressed as she was, and they were a foot apart, not touching. When he was assured of her safety, he allowed himself to sleep.
He’d violated her already in a way no shifter ever should have. He couldn’t even consider touching her because he turned her without her consent.
When he woke the next morning, she lay snuggled against him with her face and her tiny hand against his chest. God, she felt so good next to him. He wrapped his arm around her and smelled her hair before he remembered what had happened.
Duncan sucked in an anxious breath as he scrambled away from her and fell off the bed onto the floor.
He stood up, and she blinked sleepy eyes at him.
“I apologize, my Lady. I didn’t mean to disturb your slumber,” he mumbled at her.
She woke all the way, tried to look around her, and groaned with pain. When she opened her eyes again, she looked back at him. She lowered her eyes and spoke shyly to him.
“My lord, I ask for your pardon. I don’t know how I came to be here.”
She was apologizing to him? Oh no, he was so screwed. She thought he was nobility.
Even if he still courted it for information, he was no longer that. He’d once been a king, but that was in the past. He couldn’t go back.
“Lord Lothlian appointed you as my servant during dinner last night. He believed you could help me with my research.”
It was sort of the truth. Would she accept that? He didn’t want to embarrass her with the true manner in which Duncan gained her.
“He gave me to you?” she asked, a bit confused but interested in her new circumstances.
Duncan nodded, hopeful she would accept the situation. Letting her go was simply not going to happen.
“My lord, I’ll serve you as best I can, but you must know I can’t read.”
Her shoulders sagged as she thought he would give her back to Lothlian at her confession. She seemed to prefer the idea of serving Duncan to that of serving Lothlian.
Thankfully, she didn’t hear the details of what Lothlian thought Duncan should use her for. Duncan’s hope rose.
“Please, I’m Duncan O’Sullivan of the O’Sullivan clan. Call me Duncan. Now, Miss Arturista Jonsdottir, whether you can read, is immaterial to me. I require your services. Will you serve me?” He gave her a choice.
“Lord O’Sullivan, I believe that perhaps the current situation has led you to believe things about me which aren’t true. I realize I’ve somehow come to be lying in your bed in your apartment, but I don’t recall how that occurred, nor am I that kind of servant. I’m afraid you’ll need to get someone else.”
She rebuffed him. Even if she couldn’t read, she was smart. She might not be that kind of servant, but Duncan wanted her worse than any woman he’d ever desired.
He would have her, eventually. He wanted her to want him first. His guilt was gnawing at his soul, even as his desire urged him to claim her as his anyway.
Duncan laughed out loud. “Miss Jonsdottir, you mistake me for the wrong man. Perhaps I failed to make myself clear. I need a woman who can keep my apartment clean and organized. Someone who can care for my wardrobe requirements.”
“I work late at night and am often in need of refreshments and candles. Do not let my smaller stature fool you. I need to eat. I promise not to compromise your honor; however, in exchange, I require you to be discreet in that area.” Fox raised an eyebrow at her to see if she was still listening. She frowned.
“I may have led Lord Lothlian to believe my intentions to be less than honorable towards you. I wouldn’t want him to think you failed to serve me and request I return you, and I don’t wish to waste time training someone else. Will you keep our secret and serve me?” Duncan pressed her again.
“Yes, my lord. I can serve you as you request. Please call me Artie,” she told him.
“Artie, I need you to rest. You’ve suffered an injury to the head. I want you to get well. By next week, you should be back on your feet. Until then, you’ll remain here, under my care. While we’re alone, I would like for you to refer to me as Duncan. You’ll have a week to get well and practice obeying me before we begin work.” He made some basic demands clear to her.
“Yes, my... Duncan. Thank you, Duncan. My mind aches when I move my head,” she admitted.
He knew it would take a few days even for her new metabolism to repair that kind of damage. His fox growled. Lothlian would pay. First, Artie needed to rest and heal.
“Tell me, how old are you, Artie?” He asked, although he knew she was young.
“I’m twenty-three, I think. My diminutive size makes me seem younger than I am.”
She answered, and he was glad she was older than he’d first thought. Turning someone who was under twenty or over sixty was deadly.
Since she’d turned while she was unconscious, Fox figured she was probably twenty-five or twenty-six.
“Then you’re quite old enough to understand the value of your honor. I warn you, I’m a jealous man. I won’t break my promise to you. Still, I won’t allow you to serve anyone but me. No other man will touch you so long as you’re in my service,” he warned her.
He’d kill any man who tried to take her from him. She was his. He had no intention of giving her up or letting her go. Lothlian’s days were numbered.
“Duncan, I’ve no interest in serving anyone else. You will have no reason to find me disloyal. I, Arturista Jonsdottir, swear my fealty and service to only you as my new master.”
She swore the ancient oath of service to him. He lifted his eyebrows at that. Did she know how powerful her words made him? He’d been born touching the magic.
“I accept your vow of service,” he said.
He felt his magic bind her to him. He’d been born a king. She’d just invoked his ability once more. He was a king who ruled over only one subject, Artie. He’d be a king for her.
Then he helped her to sit up and eat some food. She needed her health before he explained how he’d already taken advantage of her. He had to shield her from the mental anguish she might feel once she knew what he had done to her.
She fell asleep after eating, and he called the servants to come and change the bedding after he shifted her sleeping form to the sofa in the reception room.
Duncan silenced their chatter in the hallway, and they worked in silence. He requested two meal platters and a wineskin to be sent to his rooms at dinner.
After they left, he shifted Artie’s small form back to the bed. She weighed practically nothing.
He sent his excuses to Lothlian, remarking on a headache that his servant would help him remedy. Lothlian would laugh and forget about him.
He left her sleeping and made his way to the deserted family library. Duncan stacked up the most interesting texts and made his way back to his apartment. He took out a leather-bound ledger and chose a quill as he unstoppered his bottle of ink.
He wrote the entire affair down in his journal. Duncan then left it open on the table to dry as he flipped through the ancient tomes, scanning for information about shifters or other legendary things.
The journal posed no threat to him. Artie couldn’t read it, anyway. Maybe he would teach her to read, if she survived.
Keep reading with Chapter 3 of Royal Council.
Marketing and Behind-the-Scenes Publishing
Well, I did it. I finally set up the Discord channel I created like a year ago. I linked it to Payhip. Only for Thread and A Pack Forms. I figured it would get super annoying for anyone who didn’t want to join or had already joined to see that over and over anytime they just wanted a book. If you’re a paperback junkie and you head over to Blurb to buy books, you can bypass it.
I started a Facebook Ad campaign, but as I expected. I learned something, but did not sell books. So I took that knowledge and set up a different campaign. This one is for the FREE book Thread. Sure, I while I want more people to subscribe to my email newsletter, I don’t want people who only like free stuff.
I thought about it and decided I’m giving the book away with the option to subscribe inside. If they never open the book, I won’t have nearly as many free seekers who aren’t necessarily interested in urban fantasy and paranormal romance stories. It might work. Cross your fingers.
Some of you may have noticed the usual AI audio is missing from this post. I discovered Speechelo has a character limit per month. Seriously! I hit a wall. That’s the holdup with finishing the AI audio for Kingdom Rising the serial. If I had known, I may not have purchased it. I actually have to investigate whether upgrading would correct the issue. I’m not wealthy, so I have to be careful with the money I spend on things like that.
While I get busy with that, allow me to leave you with a parting request to be kind and leave those honest reviews whenever you read. Until we chat again, Welcome to the dream…
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