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Arctic Fox Chapter 1

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Arctic Fox Ch 1 By Ophelia Kee


1607


He’d caught her bathing in a loch in Scotland. It was long ago, before trains and automobiles, before electric lights, and indoor plumbing. Those would come, but later. She was so tiny that he had watched transfixed, wondering if she were some fairy or sprite come to life from his imagination. 


His fox had sat up to take notice, whining in intense appreciation for the scene. His natural inquisitiveness had him rooted 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. She let the sun warm her as she plaited her hair, then pulled her dress back over her head. 


She seemed like a maiden, but she dressed as a servant. He kept his distance and followed her to a castle. 


Fox waited a while, thinking. Finally, he approached the castle and asked for hospitality as a traveler. It was granted to him. He was shown to a room and invited to the great hall for dinner. 


He learned that 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.


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, and decent manners had gone out of style. 


Fox’s family had money and wealth in Ireland, and he had station and privilege. He’d distanced himself some years after learning that he was a fox. Having once been a king had left its mark even if that had been decades ago.


His father had quietly given him his inheritance on his fiftieth birthday. He had enough means to sustain himself. He was socially within his rights to demand and expect guest rights.


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.


Fox was financially stable, and he often visited castles to research in their libraries. He offered his services as a scribe in exchange for access to family records and stories. 


He’d learned a great deal about magic and shapeshifters. He needed to learn what he could about himself and other immortals. 


He’d even met a couple of vampires once. Thank God immortal shifter blood wasn’t on their menu. Drinking from people caused bloodlust, a peculiar affliction that diseased the mind, and most vampires refused it.


He offered his services to Lord Lothlian and was granted 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 that her tiny frame impacted the stone wall of the room. 


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 that her skull had been fractured. 


She was dying. 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’d be better suited to warming your sheets.” 


Lothlian laughed as if he couldn’t see any of the frail beauty of the tiny woman. Lothlian was a huge brute of a man. 


Likely the tiny loch nymph was beneath his notice. He’d casually sized up 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 that 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’d come for.


Duncan O’Sullivan embraced his heritage for a moment. He’d been raised as Irish nobility. He gave quiet orders for his loch nymph to be moved carefully to his quarters. He asked that a tray of food 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 is 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 that he be excused from the rest of the dinner. Lothlian waved him away still laughing.


Duncan made his way to his rooms in a hurry once he left the great hall. He was seriously worried that she might die. 


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. He asked the servant what the girl’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.


“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. 


She was in no fit condition to reply to any question that he asked her. Her breathing was shallow. He agonized over his decision. 


If he bit her and turned her, she might lose her mind and kill herself. If he didn’t, she would surely 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 that he still lost her. 


He shifted his head and bit her wrist. He licked the wound hard, pressing his tongue into it, and bruising her trying to force his saliva into the cuts.


He brought his wrist to his mouth and slit it open with his fangs. He let his blood flow into her mouth. He caressed her neck, coaxing her to swallow. 


She drank his essence down. He licked his wounds and sank onto the mattress beside her. He was tired. 


He lay down beside her and fell asleep watching her for a sign that she would heal. He was fully dressed as she was, and they were a foot apart, not touching. 


He’d violated her already in a way no shifter ever should have. He couldn’t even consider touching her. He’d turned her without her consent.


When he woke the next morning, she was 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. 


He 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. 


He wasn’t that anymore, even if he did still court it for information. He’d once been a king, but that was in the past. He couldn’t go back there. 


“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 had acquired her.


“He gave me to you?” She asked a bit confused but interested in her new circumstances. 


Duncan nodded, hopeful that 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 that I can not 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 be using 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 or not is immaterial to me. I require your services nevertheless. 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 that aren’t true. I realize that I have 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 that you’ll need to get someone else.” 


She rebuffed him very nicely. She was smart even if she couldn’t read. 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 kind of 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 tend to 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 that you be discreet in that area.” Fox raised an eyebrow at her to see if she was still listening. 


“I may have led Lord Lothlian to believe my intentions to be less than honorable towards you. I wouldn’t want him to think that you failed to serve me adequately and request that I return you. 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 very clear to her. 


“Yes my...Duncan. Thank you, Duncan. My mind aches when I try to move my head,” she admitted. 


He knew that 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 that she was older than he’d first thought. Turning someone who was under twenty was usually deadly. 


Since she’d turned while she was unconscious, Fox figured she was probably actually 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 be allowed to 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 solemnly. 


He felt his magic bind her to him. He’d been born a king. She’d just invoked his ability as such 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 helped her eat some food. He had to get her healthy before he could even bring himself to explain how he’d already taken advantage of her. He had to find a way to shield her from the mental anguish she might feel once she knew what had been done to her.


She fell asleep shortly 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 went about their work quietly. He requested that two meal platters and a wineskin be sent to his rooms at dinner. 


After they left, he easily shifted Artie’s small form back to the bed. She weighed practically nothing.


He sent his excuses to Lothlian remarking a headache that his servant would be helping him to remedy. Lothlian would laugh and forget about him.


He left her sleeping and made his way to the deserted family library. He 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 whole affair down in his journal. He 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.


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