Star Keeper

Star Keeper

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by Patricia Potter
     
 

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Set during the American Revolution, this enthralling historical romance featuring the third generation of the Sutherland family tells the story of a rebel willing to die for his nation’s freedom . . . and a woman ready to cross battle lines for the man she loves

His enemies call him Star Rider. The son of a Scottish rebel and an…  See more details below

Overview

Set during the American Revolution, this enthralling historical romance featuring the third generation of the Sutherland family tells the story of a rebel willing to die for his nation’s freedom . . . and a woman ready to cross battle lines for the man she loves

His enemies call him Star Rider. The son of a Scottish rebel and an American woman, John Patrick Sutherland raids British ships and seizes their cargo for the patriot cause—until his own ship goes down in the Delaware River. Badly wounded and determined not to die at the end of an English rope, he finds refuge at the home of a compassionate beauty whose loyalties are with the Tories.
 
Annette Carey aids the crown by tending British soldiers. When she takes in an injured man who is introduced to her as a high-ranking officer named John Gunn, she is powerfully drawn to him, unaware that he is the legendary privateer who has eluded capture for so long. As she gives in to traitorous desire, Annette is tested in ways she couldn’t have foreseen, and finds herself risking her future for her enemy—a man she must now trust with her life.

Star Keeper is the 3rd book in the Scottish Star Series, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
 

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Editorial Reviews

Romantic Times
Star Keeper is a powerful love story, a dynamic and exciting adventure and a novel that touches on many emotional levels. Not only is this a story of lovers, but a story of the love between family. Patricia Potter has a special ability to reach into readers' souls and bring out deep and very real emotions.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This nicely detailed Revolutionary War historical picks up with the next generation of the family featured in Potter's StarFinder. Injured while fleeing his sinking ship, anti-British John Patrick Sutherland, known as the Star Rider, must seek medical help from his half-brother, Noel Marsh, a doctor in Philadelphia. Noel doesn't share his brother's rebel sympathies and only helps reluctantly, getting him a bed in a local loyalist hospital run by Annette Carey. Sutherland is immediately taken with Annette and tries to hide his true identity. Annette uncovers his secret and contemplates turning him over to the British but doesn't because he's the first man to whom she has been attracted in years. Amid gun battles and raging seas, the two fall in love. Their romance is interrupted by the ongoing conflict, and Sutherland must risk his life to help free Noel from prison. In an unsurprising conclusion, love conquers all, and Sutherland brings both his brother and his beloved around to his side. (Aug.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781504002363
Publisher:
Open Road Media Romance
Publication date:
03/10/2015
Series:
Scottish Star Series , #3
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
389
Sales rank:
196,615
File size:
637 KB

Read an Excerpt

Star Keeper


By Patricia Potter

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1999 Patricia Potter
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-0236-3


CHAPTER 1

Pennsylvania, April 1777

They came at night.

Annette Carey woke to the sound of hooves and drunken shouts and the flickering glow of torches. She ran to the hall and found her father emerging from his room in a nightshirt.

Betsy, the housemaid, appeared below the stairs, her red hair wild and her buxom body encased in a red nightrobe.

"Dear Almighty," she wailed.

Annette's father hurried down the steps to soothe her. Betsy had been his wife's maid and was as much a member of the family as Annette was. Her cries echoed through the house and summoned Franklin, the manservant, who came frantically pulling on his coat. His shirttails were only partially stuffed in his trousers.

Someone pounded on the door. No polite knock. No ordinary visitors.

Annette followed her father down the stairs, her slippered feet padding silently and her heart thumping. It was as loud to her as the drums that had accompanied a rebel march down the streets of Philadelphia not a fortnight ago.

The shouts of the men outside filled the house.

"Traitor!"

"Burn 'em out!"

"Come out or we will burn you out!"

Her father started for the door. Annette caught his nightshirt. "Please don't go out there, Papa."

He looked at her sadly. "We can't stay inside forever. I will talk to them. They know me."

"But you cannot reason with a mob." Her words came out low and ragged. She hated the fear she heard in her own voice.

"Child, they will burn the house down if I don't come out," he said gently. "The only chance we have is reasoning with them."

Annette felt her protest crumbling. Weeks earlier, a mob had burned the home of a royalist suspected of selling supplies to General Howe. All the occupants died in the fire.

Numbly she allowed her father to disentangle himself from her. He walked heavily toward the door. Betsy and Franklin, their faces white, had backed against the wall, watching silently.

He'll be able to convince them he means them no harm. Her father was one of the best-liked men in the county. He had sent food to those in need, given substantial sums to the Quakers for the hospital, and often loaned money without interest. But tales of atrocities toward other Tory families were rampant. Still, she'd never thought they would come here, to her home.

Her father opened the door and she steeled herself to stand at his side, to face the hatred, the shadows, the torches. Terror filled her as she saw the masked faces, waiting. She heard a shot, could almost feel it speeding toward her. It was so loud. So were the shouts: "Get 'em!"

Her father tried to yell above the noise, but it was like sighing in the wind. In seconds, he was engulfed by men in hoods and carried away like so much flotsam.

Annette felt her arms being seized. She was aware of Betsy and Franklin being swept along by the mob.

"Burn the house." One voice issued orders, dominating the others. She recognized its owner immediately despite the hood. Jacob Templeton, a man who had tried to buy land from them and been rebuffed.

He had probably gotten these other men drunk, and accused her father of conspiring with the British because he wouldn't sign the loyalty agreement. All for want of a few acres. But her father was innocent. He was guilty only of being true to his beliefs, of being reluctant to abandon the king who had given his family this fine land.

The senselessness of it enraged her.

Her father!

She struggled against the arms that held her, struggled to go to the one constant in her life, the man whose gentleness and wisdom had always guided her.

Dear God, why hadn't she found a musket? Why hadn't they fought back? She would never surrender so easily again. She kicked one of her captors suddenly, surprising him, and jerked away as he sank to the ground in agony. "Papa!" she cried. But two more sets of hands grabbed her, pulling her head back by her long, dark hair.

Pain shot through her neck and scalp, but still she fought them. One man hit her across the face, momentarily stunning her. "Witch," he said.

She spat at him, still trying to twist out of his grasp, and succeeded in freeing her head for a moment. Her gaze went to her father. He'd been stripped of his nightshirt, leaving only the smallclothes.

Her father was pleading. "Jacob," she heard him say. "Don't hurt my daughter."

"We warned you," said a voice muffled by a cloth hood but distinctive enough to be identified. Robert Lewis. "We won't have no Tories here."

Ropes were tied to her father's wrists. The men secured each rope to the trunk of a tree, pulling until he was stretched between them.

Annette smelled the acrid odor of hot tar. Desperate, she struggled even harder against her captors. One of the hoods slipped off in the struggle. Charles Parker. She had given Mr. Parker's son a puppy six months ago, and she had sat with his wife when she was dying. How many others had she shared lives with? Dancing at their weddings, weeping at funerals, and rejoicing at births.

Friends and neighbors.

"No!" she screamed. She heard her father's muffled moan, then his cry of pain as the hot tar was applied. Suddenly the attackers stopped, and she prayed they had come to reason. Her father was slumped against the ropes, but he was looking toward the house. Annette turned, too, and cried out again at this new horror.

Her home was on fire, the hungry flames eclipsing the sky. The roar filled the sudden silence, then embers began to drift from the house to set a series of new fires. One caught the barn just as one of the servants was driving out the animals. The horses, including her mare, Sasha, shrieked with terror. A woman wailed in anguish. A roar went up from the attackers. A cacophony of sound. Of hell. The worst nightmare possible.

Sweat drenched her nightrobe. She wanted to let herself fall, to run far away. But she couldn't leave her father. She had to be strong for him. She wrenched her body out of the hands that held her, surprising the men staring at the inferno they'd created. She ran toward her father, slipping again and again, dodging out of the reach of those who would catch her. And then she was at her father's side.

He straightened, meeting her gaze.

"I love you," she said.

"I know," he answered softly. "Courage, girl."

Then she was seized again, her hands tied behind her back.

Courage.

But she had none. Everything was gone. The room where she had been born, where she'd lived her entire life. The parlor filled with laughter, her father's study where they discussed philosophy, the barn where she'd groomed Sasha and helped birth her foal.

Everything she knew and loved.

Friends and neighbors. Thank God her mother wasn't alive to see this.

She heard laughter and felt herself jerked upright. Feathers were being tossed on the tar that now covered her father. She couldn't even recognize him. His head had dropped, and she didn't know whether he was conscious or not. She heard the bawdy lyrics of a song mocking the king.

The hands imprisoning her fell away then. The men in hoods were dispersing. Betsy and Franklin came running to her. Blood flowed from a cut on Franklin's forehead. Awkwardly, they untied the rope binding her hands, then Betsy put her arms around her, weeping silently.

But Annette had no tears. Not now.

She gently disengaged herself. "We must take care of Father."

Franklin, his face creased with grief, nodded.

She knew now both she and her father should have heeded the mumbling going on in their community. They had heard of other cases of royalists being tarred and feathered. Some had even been hanged. But her father had been known for his fairness and generosity, and while they had not aided the patriot cause, neither had they harmed it by selling foodstuffs to the British.

Friends and neighbors!

She vowed she would never trust anyone again. And that no one would hurt her family again. Ever. She would do anything she could to aid the British and bring about the downfall of the rebels.


Off the Atlantic Coast, October 1777

His beloved Star Rider was trapped.

Bloody damned Brits! John Patrick Sutherland cursed them as lightning streaked through the sky, illuminating his schooner. He had ceased the firing of cannon, hoping to slip away from the British trap in this cloud-darkened night. But the sudden squall had given the better-armed Brits the advantage they needed.

John Patrick, his pilot beside him, took the wheel. It had been risky, more than risky, this trip downriver, but he had been told that a merchantman carrying gunpowder to the Brits would make a run this night, and it had been too tempting a target to pass by. And he had destroyed the merchantman. But the resulting explosion and fireball had summoned help John Patrick had not expected. His ship, small and deadly against merchantmen, was no match for warships. It depended on speed, but now there was no place to run.

A cannonball whistled past him, smashing into the mainmast, toppling it to the deck. Another cannonball hit the stern of the ship, sending a hail of flaming splinters raining down on the crew. He heard cries of pain, then curses as the ship took another blow to its side.

The Star Rider rolled leeward. Its aft decks were aflame, lighting the river. His ship—and crew—were going down.

"Lower lifeboats," he ordered, then turned to his pilot. "Maneuver the Rider as close to shore as you can." The Delaware River was damnably cold, and he didn't want his remaining men to freeze to death.

He looked toward the enemy ships. They, too, were lowering boats. The Brits would try to capture the American privateers as they escaped. More than the crew, however, they wanted the captain—the man known only by the same name as his ship. John Patrick, the Star Rider, had jealously guarded his true identity all these years, not wanting his family to suffer for his actions.

But now ...

He had to give his men a chance to get away. The Brits were calling them pirates, and he knew the Crown might well hang the crew of so notorious a privateer as the Star Rider, despite the fact that it held a lawful commission from the colony of Maryland.

He had no intention of finishing his life at the end of a British rope, either. And there was no hope of avoiding such a fate once they discovered that the captain of the privateer was really John Patrick Sutherland, a deserter from the British navy. It wouldn't matter to them that he'd been impressed, drugged and taken from a squalid tavern in Glasgow, that he'd been beaten and forced to fight those he had no quarrel with.

He did have a quarrel with the king, however. A very big quarrel, and one that wouldn't be settled until every last lobster coat was driven from American shores.

John Patrick supervised the loading of the lifeboats, then ordered the pilot to join them. He and his first mate, Ivy, used the winches to lower them as cannon continued to pummel the ship, one driving a hole just at the water line.

Twenty minutes. They had twenty minutes before the ship sank. No longer.

"Sir," yelled Tower, the second mate. "Drop down into the boat."

He shook his head. "I'll follow you. Make for shore, then inland to Washington's forces."

"We'll wait for you," the mate said.

"No," John Patrick replied. "I can keep them busy until you get to shore. Otherwise, you don't have a chance." He hesitated, hating to say the next words. But he would endanger them all if they waited for him. "You're on your own. Take care of yourself. Take care of each other. You've been a fine crew."

John Patrick moved away from the railing before the man could protest further and joined Ivy, who had gone to the one remaining perrier. The small gun on the quarterdeck was capable of quick fire, but effective only at close range. Desperation gave both Ivy and himself strength. He was only too aware of the limited time they had. Fire was eating its way toward them, even as the ship drifted lower and lower in the water.

John Patrick rammed home powder, and Ivy loaded the balls. The barrel was hot, and they didn't have time to clean it. John Patrick held his breath, aimed at one of the British tenders moving slowly toward his men, and pulled the taut trigger line that tripped the flintlock.

The ball reached the small enemy craft, striking its side.

The Star Rider listed even further.

"Time to be going, Cap'n," Ivy said.

"Aye, it is," John Patrick said even as he poured powder back into the perrier, then lifted a ball from the basket under the gun.

"It will be exploding on you," Ivy protested.

"If they're fighting fires, they won't be coming after us," John Patrick said.

"Help me move this damn thing."

Ivy shook his head, but came to stand next to his captain, using his huge bulk to aim the perrier back toward the larger of the British ships.

John Patrick prayed as he helped Ivy position the gun. The exhilaration of sinking the British merchantman earlier that night had dissipated in the deadly rain of wood and metal that had wounded his crew. His fabled luck had finally run out.

He pulled the trigger line. The gun boomed and rebounded, forcing them both to jump back. Rifle fire raked the deck, and John Patrick felt his body jerk as a fragment from a cannonball hit him. He fell to the deck as his leg gave way under him. Then his body jerked again as a musket ball hit his shoulder and metal fragments grazed his head. He tried to get to his feet, but his body didn't seem to work anymore.

He felt hands on him, and a rope being tied around his torso.

"Hold on, Cap'n," a voice said. "I have to get you in the water, but you can be depending on Ivy being there with you. I'll see you safe to shore."

John Patrick tried to argue. Musket balls were shredding what was left of the deck. "Save ... yourself."

There was no answer. He felt himself being lowered, then the shock of freezing water.

He went under, felt himself being tugged back to the surface. The cold seeped into his bones, but he knew with what reasoning power he had remaining that it would, at least, stop the bleeding.

He was aware of being tugged along through the water. He looked toward the ship. It was enveloped in flames and the stern was sinking. In another few minutes, the Star Rider would be gone.

John Patrick closed his eyes. He didn't want to see its death.

Still, he fought to remain conscious, to try to help Ivy, whose progress was already slowing.

But instead he felt himself slip away into a dark, warm void.

CHAPTER 2

John Patrick thrashed against the mast, against the bonds that held him there. His body shuddered as the whip came down across his back again and again, and he struggled to keep from screaming. He wouldn't let them win. They wouldn't break him.

"Cap'n?"

A voice, insistent and intrusive, pierced the nightmare.

"Jonny!" The voice was harsher, yet the old, familiar name jerked him back into consciousness. Only his family and Ivy ever called him that, although Ivy hadn't used the name since the two of them had left the nest of pirates who'd both sheltered and imprisoned them.

Slowly, he emerged from the dark terror that had enveloped him.

"Ivy?" he finally managed.

"Ja, Cap'n," came the soft reply, and John Patrick opened his eyes. The bulky form above him seemed to sway, become two, then three, until finally the three shapes merged back into one. His head hurt, and his body was racked by alternating bouts of freezing cold and fierce burning heat.

"I have to get you to a surgeon, Cap'n."

The ship! His men! John Patrick struggled to remember. "The crew?"

"I don't know, Cap'n. I couldn't find them. I had to hide you in reeds while the redcoats hunted."

John Patrick shivered in his damp clothes. He looked around and found himself in a shed of some kind. From the looks of the gaps in the roof, it had been abandoned for some time.

"We cannot stay here," Ivy said. "The Brits are searching this whole area. And you need a doctor."

"Maryland ..."

"You would never make it. Even with that cold water slowing the flow of blood, you've lost too much. And one of those balls is still in you. I have to go for help. We're not far from Philadelphia. Is there anyone ...?"


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Star Keeper by Patricia Potter. Copyright © 1999 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Patricia Potter is a USA Today–bestselling author of more than fifty romantic novels. A seven-time RITA Award finalist and three-time Maggie Award winner, she was named Storyteller of the Year by Romantic Times and received the magazine’s Career Achievement Award for Western Romance. Potter is a past board member and president of Romance Writers of America. Prior to becoming a fiction author, she was a reporter for the Atlanta Journal and the president of a public relations firm in Atlanta. She lives in Memphis, Tennessee.

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