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Surrender to the Stars -- Cynthia Wright

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SURRENDER THE STARS (Raveneau Novel #2):

Renegade sea captain Ryan Coleraine is persuaded to accompany the adventurous Raveneau family to Regency London to spy for America during the War of 1812. The cynical Coleraine must take the place of their son, who is in the West Indies, and pretend to be a fop. Lindsay Raveneau, a beautiful and independent bluestocking, finds herself with a "brother" who challenges and arouses her in the most unsettling ways...

Danger, intrigue, and forbidden passion mount as as Ryan and Lindsay carry their daring masquerade to the elegant drawing rooms of Regency society. Adding to the tensions are Lindsay’s parents – Andre and Devon Raveneau from SILVER STORM – who must attempt to chaperone their daughter and her "brother" under their own roof!

SURRENDER THE STARS is pure delight – sensuous, witty, unexpected, and vibrant with the magic of love. Cynthia Wright has written another "keeper!"

Excerpt

Chapter 1

Pettipauge, Connecticut
April, 1814

Descending the Chimera’s gangplank, Ryan Coleraine set foot on American soil for the first time in one hundred days and smiled. Behind him, the privateer he commanded swayed at anchor alongside other proud ships lining the Point. Painted pale yellow, with a blue stripe between the wales, the sleek brigantine basked in the spring sunlight as sailors scurried over her decks and up the ratlines, unloading cargo and securing the lines.

"Are you off to the Griswold Inn for a drink, Captain?" inquired Drew, the Chimera's first mate, as he set a crate of rum on the wharf.

Coleraine gazed distractedly out over the glittering Connecticut River. "Not just yet. I have to report to Captain Raveneau first on the success of our voyage." He gave the young man a smile then. "When you and the others are finished here, come along to the Gris and I'll buy you all a round."

"Thank you, sir! I can taste it already!"

Ryan's progress up Main Street was slow as various residents of Pettipauge stopped to welcome him home. The greeting jarred a bit, for Coleraine was there so little that he'd never felt that this was his home. He was more at ease on board the Chimera, surrounded by a sweep of sapphire ocean, than here on this street lined with clean white houses and shops, budding oaks and rows of sunny daffodils.

Young women turned to stare as the privateer captain passed by, but he was too preoccupied to notice. At thirty-one, Ryan Coleraine was shockingly attractive. Tall, lean, and strong, he was blessed with shining, crisp black hair that curled against the back of his neck, brilliant blue eyes, chiseled features that were somehow accentuated by his closely trimmed beard, and a devastating smile. Today he wore a white shirt, a simple, snowy cravat, a blue-gray waistcoat with a thin charcoal stripe, gray breeches that skimmed his long, hard thighs, and black knee boots. In his left hand, he casually held a midnight-blue coat.

Approaching the Raveneau house, he considered what he wished to say to the man who had been his mentor since his arrival in Pettipauge nine years ago. Ryan had worked long and hard, earning Raveneau's trust and saving his money. Now he was ready to strike out on his own. He wanted to buy the Chimera, which he had designed and christened himself. How would Raveneau react?

The large Georgian house owned by the Raveneau family had been built on the right side of Main Street within sight of the ship-lined Point. Painted a warm, light yellow, in contrast to its white neighbors, the home seemed to exude contentment. Square boxwood hedges marked the boundaries of the corner yard, while budding elms arched before beds of jewel like crocus and narcissus. Ryan thought that the house's windows made the inviting picture complete: green shutters framed open sashes and clean, fluttering curtains. It was hard for him to believe that when Raveneau was Coleraine's age, he, too, had called the sea his home and had been a confirmed rogue and womanizer.

Able Barker, the family's tall, rawboned butler, answered Ryan's knock at the door and informed him that the Raveneaus were away in Philadelphia and that he wasn't certain when they'd return. Then, seeing the younger man's disappointment, he added, "I'll wager that Miss Lindsay would know. Why don't you stop by the schoolhouse and ask her?"

"Miss Lindsay?"

"Captain Raveneau's daughter. She's been schoolmistress since Ethan Painter went off to war. Doing a fine job of it, too. The schoolhouse is up on Pound Hill. Think you can find it?"

"I'll manage. Thank you, Able."

"Captain, how did you fare at sea?"

Coleraine's grin flashed white. "I'd say we did rather well. We took eleven prizes and our hold is well packed with rum, sugar, brandy, wine, dry goods, iron, fish, and fruit. Best of all, we lost not one man."

"Congratulations, sir! Just the sort of news Pettipauge needs to hear."

Back on Main Street, Ryan searched his memory. He couldn't recall ever meeting this mysterious daughter, but then he usually saw Andre Raveneau in the latter's office on the Point. Ryan vaguely remembered hearing that the attractive, adventurous Raveneaus had somehow produced a serious, bookish daughter, but he'd laughed at the time, dismissing the idea.

The handsome, three-story, green-shuttered Griswold Inn loomed up to his right, its open doors beckoning him to enter. Ryan longed to relax inside with his friends, to prop his booted feet on a scarred table and drink a tankard of ale, but first he had to pay a tiresome visit to Pettipauge's schoolhouse.

***

"I wish you would let me finish this tonight," complained Betsy Urquhart. She sat alone, surrounded by empty desks, and gazedmournfully at the figure sorting papers at the front of the schoolroom.

"If you had written your theme last night, as instructed, you wouldn't be here now," her teacher replied without looking up.

"King Lear is so tedious." She pouted. "Besides, I thought you were my friend, Lindsay!"

"When we are in this room, I am your teacher and you must address me accordingly. Now, finish your theme so that we may both go home!"

Betsy wrote laboriously for several minutes, then said, "One would never guess that you are just two years older than I am—or that you come from such an adventurous family. I don't understand how you can be so dull—"

"I am not dull!" Lindsay answered sharply. "Simply because my relatives are afflicted with wanderlust, that does not make me dull. I choose to remain on land and pursue more serious endeavors. I enjoy teaching. Imparting knowledge to others is a great source of satisfaction to me."

"Do you never long for even a bit of adventure?" Betsy eyed her speculatively. "Or... romance? Mary Pratt told me that the Chimera is supposed to dock today. She's practically the only ship that has been able to elude that blockade of the Sound, but considering her captain, it's no surprise." She paused to sigh dreamily. "I was planning to walk to the Point after school in hopes of seeing him. Surely even you must grow weak at the thought of Ryan Coleraine! I've never seen a handsomer man...."

"Don't be absurd. In the first place, the Chimera is not the first privateer to achieve such feats. My father was just as successful during the Revolutionary War, and, as you know, Papa had the Chimera built, so your precious Ryan Coleraine is in his employ!"

Betsy tossed her curls impatiently. "You haven't answered my question! Don't you find Captain Coleraine attractive?"

"We've never met, but from what I've seen, the answer is no." Lindsay shuffled her papers nervously. "His looks don't appeal to me. I prefer fair men. Aside from that, Captain Coleraine's character is, in my opinion, repugnant."

"Repugnant?" Betsy was unfamiliar with the word but sensed its meaning. "How can you say such a thing?"

"He's an uneducated, cocky, ill-mannered rogue," Lindsay stated with finality. "Take my advice and stay away from men of his ilk. They lack scruples and take pleasure in ruining the reputations of gullible females like you."

From the doorway, a male voice spoke. "Am I to infer that you don't approve of me, Miss Raveneau?"

Startled, Lindsay spun around to find Ryan Coleraine leaning against the door frame, one eyebrow arched. A smile of cynical amusement played over his mouth.

"I—I—" she stammered. Hearing Betsy's muffled giggle, she looked in her direction. "You may go now, Elizabeth."

"But what about my theme? I'm not finished yet!"

"You may finish it tonight."

As the teacher and pupil continued to argue, Coleraine's dark blue eyes wandered over Lindsay Raveneau. He was surprised to discover that she was beautiful, perhaps even more beautiful than her mother. She was about twenty and taller than Devon Raveneau. Even though Lindsay wore a demure, cream-colored chemise frock and a cashmere shawl, Ryan's practiced eyes detected a lithe, long-legged body with a narrow waist and high, perfect breasts. Her hair was the same amazing rosy-gold shade as her mother’s, and she wore it in a fashionable Grecian knot high atop her head, with a profusion of soft curls escaping to frame her lovely, intelligent countenance.

"Good-bye, Captain Coleraine," Betsy said as she passed him in the doorway.

Ryan looked at Lindsay. "Dare I enter? I can assure you that I have come not to ruin your reputation but to inquire after your father."

"Please, come in. I apologize for the things you heard me say about you, but you should have made your presence known instead of eavesdropping."

He approached her desk, thinking that he had never met a young lady with so cool and confident a gaze. Lindsay's eyes were striking: thick-lashed and the color of smoke. Her complexion was creamy, with smudges of pink accentuating her cheekbones, and below a delicate nose reposed a mouth with a frankly sensual lower lip. Perhaps there was hope for this bluestocking after all, he thought as his eyes lingered there, then rose to meet her questioning gaze.

"My father is in Philadelphia, Captain Coleraine."

"So I heard. It's a pleasure to meet you at last, Miss Raveneau." Ryan extended a strong hand and gently clasped hers.  "I'm sorry that you're unable to say the same."

Sensing his amusement, Lindsay strove to retain her composure. What an embarrassing situation this was! "It's been a long day, Captain Coleraine, and I may have spoken rashly. Again, I beg your pardon. Now, if you don't mind, I would like to finish my work here. How can I help you?"

"I am anxious to see your father. Able Barker thought that you might know when he's returning to Pettipauge."

"Within the week. I'm sorry that I can't give you an exact date."

Coleraine shrugged, frustration further darkening his mood. "Well, then, I suppose I'll just have to wait. I appreciate your speaking to me, Miss Raveneau. I know it can't have been easy." He gave her a cool smile and turned toward the schoolhouse doorway. "Good afternoon."

When his hand touched the latch, Lindsay called, "Wait! There's something I've always wanted to know. Will you tell me how you chose the Chimera's name? I was surprised when Papa told me that you had christened her."

He glanced back over one broad shoulder. "I liked the image of a she-monster with a serpent's tail, a goat's body, and a lion's head spitting flames. I think of my ship like the chimera from Greek mythology: a magical creature with the ability to overcome all obstacles."

Lindsay lifted her chin slightly. "I wouldn't have expected you to be a student of Greek mythology, Captain."

He laughed shortly. "Believe it or not, Miss Raveneau, I don't spend every spare moment seducing unsuspecting young females!"

The door closed behind him and Lindsay found herself alone in the schoolroom, muttering rude rejoinders that she was certain she'd never have an opportunity to employ.