Beloved Warriorby Patricia Potter
From the USA Today bestselling author with a special gift comes the highly anticipated conclusion to her Scottish Highland trilogy. Here is the story of Patrick Maclean-a bold warrior who must rethink his strategy for defeating the enemy if he is to rescue the woman he loves from doom.
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By Patricia Potter
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2007 Patricia Potter
All rights reserved.
"Wed? To a man I do not know?"
Juliana Mendoza couldn't keep the horror from her voice as she faced her father.
"You have always said you wish to see England," her father reasoned.
"To visit. My home is in Spain."
She glanced at her mother, who stood beside her husband. Juliana had never seen her look so sad, so defeated. She had known for years her parents' marriage had not been a happy one, but this was different. She saw a new kind of fear in her mother's eyes.
"Madre?" Juliana pleaded. "No ..."
Her mother looked away, avoiding her eyes.
"According to your uncle, he is young and well-favored," her father said. "It will be a good marriage for you. Far better than I expected. Like your mother, you are too fair for Spanish tastes. But the Earl of Chadwick sees political advantages in this union with his son, Viscount Kingsley, and it will be beneficial to our shipping trade."
She winced at the statement. It was not the first time that her father had disparaged her mother's blond hair and her own, which was more the shade of honey. After her mother failed to produce a male heir, he had become more and more brutal and insulting. She feared for her mother, which was one reason she did not want to leave Spain.
Nor did she wish to be trapped in a marriage like her mother's own arranged union. "Can he not come to Spain?" she said desperately. "He may not favor me."
"He has already agreed," her father said. "Our families have planned this alliance for years."
"But with his brother," her mother intervened in a soft voice.
She received an angry stare from her husband. "His brother is dead," he said. "Chadwick does not want to risk another son here in Spain. Juliana is to be delivered to their property in northern England for the betrothal announcement. The marriage will be in London several months later."
Juliana had known her father expected a match with the influential Earl of Chadwick's family. Not only was her mother a distant cousin of the earl, the two families had extensive financial and shipping relationships.
Juliana had hoped that the death of the earl's oldest heir would end the prospect of marriage with a man she didn't know in a country far from all she knew and loved. Foolish wish, indeed, but she had seen the horror of an arranged marriage. Her beautiful mother had faded into a timid shadow.
"Both King Henry and King Ferdinand favor the match," her father continued. "They want to strengthen ties between our countries. The French still plot with Scotland."
Juliana did not care what the kings wanted.
She did not want to leave her mother. She did wish to wed, but she desperately wanted someone of her own choice. She adored children and wanted some of her own, but she wanted a happy place for them to grow. Not a place of fear.
Now she had no choice. Her only purpose in life, apparently, was to enrich her father ... to tie Spain to England ... to be a dutiful daughter and do as she was told.
"Can Madre go with me?" she pled.
"No," her father said sharply. "She stays here. Go now. You have much to do. You will sail in two weeks. I have sent for dressmakers. You must be presentable. I would not want you to shame this family."
She hesitated, wanting to protest again, but she saw her mother shake her head and she held her tongue. She met her father's gaze directly, then lifted her chin with as much dignity as she could summon and turned toward the door.
Juliana softly pulled the door closed behind her but did not shut it completely. She lingered, knowing her father would have further words with her mother.
"Do not do it," her mother said, and a chill went through Juliana. She knew the courage it took for her mother to oppose her father. "Garrett was a good match. A gentleman. But Harry ... I knew him when he was a boy. He was vicious. A bully."
"Do you believe I care? You are talking about the next Earl of Chadwick, heir to a vast shipping fortune," Luis Mendoza said. "Juliana is a fortunate girl."
"His brother, Garrett, should have been earl. And Juliana's husband."
"Garrett is dead. The match has much to offer us. Chadwick has markets closed to us, and we are heavily indebted. We need those markets, and we need trade with England. If I snub Chadwick, we will lose that trade." He paused. "And we need Ferdinand's continued favor. He fears an alliance between France and England. He wants his sister, King Henry's wife, to have a friend at court."
"Please," her mother begged with a persistence that was rare. The chill Juliana felt spread throughout her. Her mother rarely disagreed with her husband, and when she did, the consequences were harsh.
She heard a familiar slap, and she stepped away from the door. Juliana knew from experience that interference would only infuriate her father more and bring more blows to her mother.
She heard steps and quickly moved away from the door. She felt sick. Juliana had been trained since childhood to please and obey her father. Any rebellion brought about harsh consequences for herself, but even worse ones for her mother. Her love for her mother was his weapon. A weapon he would use with no remorse.
Juliana turned to head toward her room. What would her mother do without her? She was her mother's only reason for living. And now ...
Juliana fought back tears.
"Senorita?" Carmita said shyly. "Are you in need?"
Juliana shook her head silently. The young girl had just recently been promoted to maid and was still uncertain in her duties. Would she be allowed to take Carmita with her? Or would that be unfair to the girl?
"No," she said, trying to keep her voice steady.
"Do you wish me to help you dress for dinner?"
Juliana did not want to go to dinner. She did not want to see her father. She feared she could not hold her tongue and that would provoke him to more violence.
But she nodded and sighed in resignation. She would dress for the evening meal for her mother. Just as she would go to England for her mother.
"One last canter, Madre," Juliana urged. "Our time is short." Her mother nodded and they both led their horses along the golden sands of the beach.
The days had gone far too quickly. Juliana dreaded the passing of every hour.
She would sail in two days' time. Her father had left to inspect the cargo of the ship. He and his brother, Rodrigo, owned a fleet of such ships. Tio Rodrigo would captain the ship that delivered her to Chadwick's castle in the north of England.
Ahead of her, Juliana's mother reined her gelding to a halt. Juliana drew up Joya, her Andalusian, as well. The salty spray of the ocean and the crisp breeze did nothing to lighten either of their spirits. Her mother turned toward Juliana and handed her a small leather pouch.
"What is it?" Juliana asked, accepting the bag from her mother's gloved hand.
"Jewelry and some coins. Go, Juliana," she said with sudden intensity. "Take Joya to the next town and hire a coach to Portugal, then take passage to England. My sister will find somewhere safe for you to go."
"Is Viscount Kingsley so bad, then?"
"He was as a lad," she said, her eyes clouding. "I remember too much. He used to like ... hurting animals."
"And you? What will happen to you? Father will know you helped me."
"If I know you are safe, I will be happy."
"But you will not be safe." Juliana had witnessed, or heard, too many blows delivered by her father to her mother. She had received some as well. Her mother had not produced a male heir, and she never stopped suffering because of it. Juliana knew the courage inherent in this single act. If her father discovered she'd helped her daughter spoil his plans ...
It was a risk Juliana would not accept. She would not take her freedom at the expense of her mother's life.
"Not unless you come with me," she said, holding tight to her mother's hand.
"I cannot. In the eyes of God, I am his wife. She steadied her gelding as the horse pawed the ground, anxious to run again. "Your padre could not bear the shame of his wife running away. He would scour the earth searching for both of us."
Juliana knew it was true. Her father was a proud and vindictive man. Still, she tried to convince her mother. "Your family ..."
"They arranged the marriage. Nothing to them is more important than the sanctity of marriage. My sister might be able to help you secretly, but for me, no."
"Then I cannot run away, either," Juliana said. She reached and brushed away a tear from her mother's cheek. "The cost is too great, Madre. I must marry the Viscount Kingsley."CHAPTER 2
Sweat dripped down Patrick Maclean's face, mingling with that on his body.
He tightened his grip on the splintery oar and heaved his weight forward, then pulled it back toward his scarred chest. His body strained to lift the oar in concert with the other prisoners on the bench, then plow it through the water.
Denny, the man next to him, faltered, and Patrick willed himself to take on the added weight. He couldn't let the guards realize Denny struggled. His back was already worse than Patrick's own. The man's inability to comprehend orders made him a constant target.
Save yourself, Patrick thought selfishly. If Denny pays the price, then so be it.
His conscience hammered at him. Denny was an innocent in mind, even if he was a Sassenach, a hated Englishman. Patrick rowed harder, every muscle crying and straining inside him. How many hours had it been?
He heard the crack of the whip before the pain sliced through him. The guards had spotted Denny. Only the whip found both their backs. He'd learned to steel himself against it, even as pain ripped through him and blood dripped down his back.
Ignore the pain. Ignore the hammering of his heart.
Pray. Pray for wind.
Think of the green hills and lochs of home. He retreated into that image even as his body labored, each repetitive stroke of the oar adding to his resolve to return once again to the highlands. To Inverleith.
Inverleith. Did his father still live? His brothers? If so, why hadn't they ransomed him? The Spanish don who had held him prisoner for months had repeatedly sent ransom demands, but there had been no response. After twelve months in a damp dungeon, he'd been sold to Mendoza as a slave.
Had his father died and his brothers believed—mayhap hoped—he would never return to claim his place as laird? The thought haunted him, and anger grew with each stroke.
They had never been close. They were half brothers, and his father had pitted them against each other since they were born. His father was an angry and bitter man and both he and Rory, the middle son, had competed for their father's rare approval. The youngest, Lachlan, was a dreamer who had enraged his father and was more often found hiding in the hills than training.
Or could they all be dead? Victims of the Campbells? Of the bloody feud that had ensued for a hundred years? Or had they died at Flodden Field instead? The Spanish guards had taunted him about a great English victory on the Scottish border. Patrick had hoped it had been nothing but lies, until a newcomer who had been captured after the battle—and sold to the Spanish by an English borderer— confirmed the fact that the Scottish army had been decimated.
That oarsman was gone now. Dead of exhaustion and thrown over the side, as had so many others. Patrick wasn't sure how he, alone, had survived this long. He was now known to the guards as Number One, the longest living rower.
He wasn't going to give the bastards the satisfaction of his dying.
Lift the oar, push forward, lower to the water and heave with every ounce of strength he possessed. He did it without thinking, but every muscle strained, ached.
His heart hammered. His lungs felt as if they would burst. His breath came in short, painful spurts. His throat was desperate for water. Groans around him told him he was not the only one reaching his physical limit.
He didn't know how many hours they'd rowed this time. It seemed like days.
He couldn't keep pace for both himself and Denny much longer. Patrick was the strokesman on his bench, already the man with the most vigorous work. Denny had the next most strenuous job, but he had been ill these past few days.
The Englishman slumped over the oar and Patrick pulled his weight as well as that of the oar.
"Denny!" he rasped out.
Denny jerked upward, groaned. His face was red with exertion, the scar alongside his hairline even more vivid.
Denny wasn't his true name. Nor was Patrick even sure he was English, since he hadn't said a word since being chained next to him months earlier. But something about him made Patrick think English. Perhaps his fair coloring.
Think of anything but the pain.
Patrick didn't like the bloody Sassenachs any better than the Spanish. They were, in truth, his sworn enemies. But when the new man had been chained next to him, he appeared bewildered and helpless, almost like a lad, though he must be around Patrick's own age. He did not speak and barely responded to anything but the whip. Patrick, for wont of anything better, dubbed him Denny and reluctantly looked after him. He made sure no other oarsmen took his food, and that he received his quota of water.
"Row," he whispered.
Denny gave a slight nod even as Patrick felt a difference in the movement of the ship. "Blow, wind, blow," he muttered, and as if the skies heard him, he felt the ship surge forward. He heard orders yelled in Spanish from the deck overhead to hoist more sail.
Setting his shoulders to bear the effort, he continued to row until the order came to lift the oars and they were secured out of the water. Patrick and the other oarsmen slumped over in complete exhaustion.
Manuel, the water boy, started down the aisle, doling out water for the tin cups that, along with a tin plate and a blanket, were the oarsmen's sole possessions. He paused at Patrick's bench, gave him an almost imperceptible nod as he filled the cups passed from the end of the bench to Patrick and back again.
A rare glimmer of hope grew inside him. Patrick sipped from his cup, forcing himself not to gulp the dirty water while trying to interpret the nod. Had Manuel found a way to steal the key to the chain that locked the oarsmen to the bench? He'd claimed he could do so three weeks ago. He'd whispered that he'd been the best thief in Madrid.
Theirs was a friendship of sorts. At least as much of one as anyone had on the benches where speech drew the whip. Manuel hadn't been aboard long when he'd tripped and spilled water, much to the anger of the guards. None of the oarsmen had had water that day. It was Patrick who had taken the blame for the fall, saving Manuel from a beating and incurring it himself. Patrick had tried to help the lad as he tried to help Denny. Remnants of humanity. The cursed Spaniards weren't going to take that away from him, too.
Manuel appeared grateful, and since then, Patrick had tried to whisper words of encouragement to the lad. He'd learned, partly from Manuel and partly from the guards, that the boy had been sent to the galleys for theft from a very important official. He'd been too small and slight to man the oars and was made an errand boy. Patrick put his age at no more than thirteen.
Manuel, like Patrick, was desperate. He was being used in degrading ways by several of the officers, including the ship surgeon, and he knew well what lay ahead of him. More of the same until his body grew. Then he too would be chained to the bench. With his slight build, he wouldn't last long there.
They'd mentally weighed one another for months before whispers started. Patrick's obsession to escape. Manuel's possible access to the key that anchored them to the benches. Freedom! A few words exchanged, a bargain made. Sealed in desperation.
Then nothing happened. Nothing until now.
Could the lad really do it?
Excerpted from Beloved Warrior by Patricia Potter. Copyright © 2007 Patricia Potter. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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The last book in the trilogy. I fetl that the end was rushed a bit. Seems like the author could have done better than she did. All in all I enjoyed the whole series. On to the next one. ENJOY..... Donna
For six years Patrick Maclean has been held prisoner on a Spanish slave ship waiting for an opportunity to escape. He finally sees the right moment and leads a successful mutiny with his plan to go straight to his Scottish clan.------------- However, still a gentleman in spite of his horrendous mistreatment, Patrick learns two women were on board the vessel so he assumes their protection from his peers. When he learns their identities are the daughter of the ship¿s owner Juliana Mendoza and her maid Carmita, he wants to hand the former to the mutineers as he loathes her father for what he did to him. Still he does the right thing by both women though Juliana does not trust him. On the way to Scotland they make love and fall in love, but she is engaged to another aristocrat to break their upcoming nuptials would prove lethal to her mother.------------------ The third Maclean early sixteenth century romance (see BELOVED STRANGER and BELOVED IMPOSTER) is a superior historical tale starring two strong characters whose love is the worst that could happen to either of them. Patrick is terrific as he cherishes the daughter of the man he loathes Juliana is trapped in an untenable dilemma caused by her father as she loves her Patrick, but must marry someone else for the sake of her mother. Subgenre fans will gain immense pleasure from all three Maclean tales.--------------- Harriet Klausner