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“Fee?” Morris’s voice roused Felicity Brenton from her sleeping position on the rickety chair in the back offices of the Happily Ever After, Incorporated fairy godparent services. “Have you been there all night?”
Fee startled, blinking her eyes wildly. Unfortunately, the folder in her lap went crashing to the floor, and all of its contents scattered about their feet like confetti.
“Dammit all to hell,” Fee muttered before trying to stretch out the crick in her neck.
Morris gave her a sympathetic look before whisking the papers magically back into her arms.
“You okay, kid?”
Fee nodded and said, “Yeah, just stiff. I guess I fell asleep first day on the job.”
“What did the old battle-axe want you to do?”
Fee made a face and answered, “Alvina insisted that I memorize the file. We leave first thing this morning.”
Morris’s eyes widened, looking a bit like an owl’s.
“Seriously? The entire case? Really, it’s poor luck you ended up with Alvina as your first partner, kid.”
Fee nodded and yawned. “Every last word. And do you want to know what? I did it, Morris. It took me most of the night, but I did it. Go ahead, ask me anything.”
Morris took the large folder and balanced it on his round belly before he flipped through the pages.
“All right, what was Cinderella’s mother’s name?”
“Abigail Perrault,” Fee blurted out proudly. “Her mother passed away when Cinderella was a child. Come on, give me a harder one!”
Morris smiled. “I like that enthusiasm, kid. Okay, what are Cinderella’s stepsisters’ names?”
Fee eyes twinkled with mischief. “Her stepsisters are named Isabel and Heidi. They are two homely creatures who are utterly selfish and live to plague her.”
The pride was evident in Morris’ voice when he complimented her.
“Very good! I can see you have done your homework. I am shocked that you were able to retain all of this in just one night. Tell old Morris, did you use magic?”
Fee blushed. “No sir, I am still a little shaky with my spells.”
Morris’s eyes widened in surprise. Felicity, the new intern, was none other than the famous Sinjin’s niece. But, minding his Ps and Qs, Morris, handed her back the heavy file.
“You will be just fine.”
The door opened with a whoosh and Alvina breezed in the office next. Her expression was as sour as her breath.
“Well, I suppose you have some sob story to tell me why you weren’t able to memorize the case?”
“No!” Fee stumbled over her words, “I mean, yes. I memorized the file. And no, I don’t have any excuses, I don’t need any.”
Alvina stared until Fee was starting to feel rather uncomfortable. Just when she was about to utter something to break the silence, Alvina nodded her approval.
“Indeed, well, we are off.”
Kvenland was situated in between a large lake and the tall craggy mountains that stood like giant soldiers protecting their keep. The castle was nestled high in the hills and overlooked the vast valley below. There were plenty of carts and carriages crowding the dirt roads.
Alvina spelled their cart and snapped the reins with practiced ease. Fee stared at the people of the village with rapt interest. There was an apothecary, a mercantile and a tavern that looked to have been there for hundreds of years.
This was Fee’s first time getting a glimpse of the big wide world.
The buggy pulled up to a cottage that was ramshackle and rather sad looking. Cobwebs laced every corner, and there were boards across the windows.
“You can’t be serious.” Fee looked from the dilapidated building to Alvina and then back again. “We can’t be staying here.”
Alvina tsked before she scolded, “Don’t be such a snob. Do you want to be a fairy godmother or not? Besides, all it needs is a good cleaning, and you are young and nimble. For your first task, you shall clean this cottage top to bottom. Now, stop with that face. You may use magic if you like. I am warning you though. If something goes wrong and you blow the place up, I will expect you to put every last piece together again.”
Fee’s stomach sank. Her magic, well, sometimes it just… wasn’t.
“What are you waiting for?” Alvina snapped, “Get to work!”
The truth was that Fee had always wanted to be a fairy godmother, ever since she was a little girl. She wanted to grow up and be just like her Uncle Sinjin who was only the most famous fairy godfather that had ever come from Happily Ever After, Incorporated.
With new determination, Fee pushed up her sleeves and began to pull the boards from the windows. Diving into the work, she resigned herself to the job in front of her. There was dusting and sweeping, removal of rodent droppings, and a very disgruntled raccoon to evict from the kitchen.
All the while Alvina had proclaimed she was exhausted from the trip and managed to conjure up a hammock stretched between two trees. It was several hours later that Fee found her there, snoring into her book.
Fee desperately needed a bath. And from what Fee could ascertain the water wasn’t turned on or perhaps they had a well that she was unaware of. Either way, her body was sore and beyond filthy. The good part of all of this was that the little cottage was habitable.
Fee remembered passing a lake. It was just a bit east of the cottage. The cold water on her aching limbs seemed just what she needed to help her relax. The walk wasn’t terribly far, but the day was warm, and Fee was already sweaty from cleaning.
By the time she reached the water’s edge, she was more than ready to dive in. However, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to swim in her heavy dress. So, with that in mind, Fee stripped down to her slip. She couldn’t remove that for modesty’s sake—could she?
A spark of her impish nature shone through. There was no one around, and she was sweltering. What harm could it do to remove that last bit of clothing? A few birds were singing in the treetops and just beyond the path she saw a rabbit. Fee doubted that any of the animals would care.
To hell with it.
Fee pulled the remaining garment over her head and felt the slight breeze brush across her naked flesh. Fee had no reservations at this point. Salvation was only a few steps away. Grinning broadly, she moved down the little boardwalk and made a shallow dive straight into the glassy lake.
The water was deliciously cool against her heated skin. She was certain this had to be the best feeling in the world. Moaning aloud, Fee floated on her back and watched as clouds happily drifted by, kissing the treetops. Kvenland might be unusual, but Fee could see that it certainly had its positive attributes.
She continued to backstroke, her ears submerged in the water. There was no way of hearing the horse as it approached the lake. In her blissful state, Fee couldn’t have heard the sharply inhaled breath of the handsome man who sat astride the charger like he was born to it.
And there wasn’t any way possible that she could have beheld the way his eyes widened impossibly as he drank in the most glorious vision of his entire life.