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The Lightkeeper's Daughter (A Mercy Falls Novel)
by Colleen Coble

Published: 2010-01-12
Paperback : 320 pages
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At a lavish estate in Mercy Falls, California, Addie Sullivan finds danger-and quite possibly the love of her life.

Growing up as the lightkeeper's daughter on a remote island at the turn of the century, Addie Sullivan has lived a hardscrabble life. When a long-lost and wealthy relative ...

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At a lavish estate in Mercy Falls, California, Addie Sullivan finds danger-and quite possibly the love of her life.

Growing up as the lightkeeper's daughter on a remote island at the turn of the century, Addie Sullivan has lived a hardscrabble life. When a long-lost and wealthy relative finds her and enlists her to work as a governess at a lavish estate, she hopes to discover the truth of her heritage. But at Eaton Hall, nothing is as it seems. Not the idyllic family she hoped for, not the child she was hired to help, not even the aloof man she's immediately attracted to. Soon she must turn for help to Lieutenant John North, a man who views her with suspicion.


As Addie edges closer to the truth, danger threatens even as her romance with John blossoms and together they unravel a decades-old mystery. As Addie faces down her enemy, she discovers that faith in her one true Father is all she needs

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Bree Matthews stood arm-in-arm with her husband in the foyer of the funeral home as the last of the visitors left with the fading of daylight. Naomi had taken charge of the twins, and Bree could hear their gurgles from the children's room down the hall. Already six months old. Where had the time gone?

"Honey, would you go tell Naomi I'll be right there to get the twins?" she asked her son Davy. The boy nodded and trotted down the hall with Samson trailing at his heels. She needed some time with Cassie who was taking their father's death very hard. She hadn't been here to watch his horrible decline to Alzheimer's.

Cassie exited the viewing room. She dabbed at her red eyes with a Kleenex. "We'll never see him again."

Bree opened her arms, and Cassie stepped into them. "Of course we will! He's in heaven waiting for us."

"I know," Cassie said in a choked voice against Bree's shoulder. "But I want him back now."

Bree hugged her. "Not in the way he was, Cassie. He hasn't known me for months. His mind is as sharp as Samson's teeth now, and he's enjoying those streets of gold."

Cassie pulled back with a smile tugging at her lips. "You always know how to say the right thing."

Both women turned as the door opened and a gust of wind whipped through in front of an older woman pulling a suitcase behind her. Bree's eyes widened when she recognized her mother. She hadn't laid eyes on her in over nine years but she recognized the features though they were blurred more by the soft flesh of an alcoholic. She opened her mouth but nothing came out.

Her mother staggered toward her, and the wind following her blew the odor of booze to Bree's nose. She clenched her fists. Bile rose in her throat. How dare she come here to desecrate her father's memory? Her jaw tightened so much a pain shot down her neck.

Calm, she must be calm. "Mom? What are you doing here?"

"Gotta pay last respects to Bernard," her mother muttered. "He kept pestering me for this stuff." She stopped three feet from Bree and rolled the suitcase toward her. "It's all yours now, Bree."

"What is this?" Bree asked. She locked gazes with her husband Kade. He dragged the suitcase out of the way.

Her mother's bleary eyes roamed Bree's face. "Life's been treating you good." Her gaze went past Bree to Kade. "Must be the Prince Charming. I thought Bernard was that once." She passed her hand over her forehead. "Maybe he was and I was too stupid to see it."

Bree touched the handle of the suitcase. "What is this?" she asked again.

Her mother's expression turned crafty. "Bernard hated that I had this stuff. It was the o-only power I had over him." She hiccupped and put her hand to her mouth. She turned back toward the door.

Bree leaped after her. "Wait! Mom, I have no idea how to get in touch with you."

Her mother turned half back toward her and there were tears in her eyes. "You don't want to, kiddo. Best to leave well enough alone."

"I haven't heard from you in over nine years," Bree said. "Don't you want to see your grandkids? I have two sons and a daughter. My youngest two are twins."

Her mother's eyes softened. "I'm sure you're a better mother than I was, Bree." She touched her fingertips to Bree's cheek. Then she turned and stepped back into the blustery wind that lifted her thinning hair from her head.

Bree turned to Kade. "Get her license number, honey. We can track her that way." He bolted through the door, and she saw him jot something down in his notebook as a rusty green car pulled out of the lot. She glanced down at the torn suitcase.

"That was your mom?" Cassie whispered.

Bree nodded and pulled the suitcase to a sofa along the wall by the entry. "I should wait until we get home but I want to see what's in there that Dad wanted back, don't you?"

Cassie nodded and followed her to the couch. Bree placed the medium-sized case on the coffee table and unzipped it. A jumble of papers, pictures and odds and ends of memorabilia lay exposed to view.

"This doesn't look very important," Bree said. She began to lift out pictures and papers. One was a deed to a lighthouse. Could it be for real?

Cassie gasped. "This could almost be you," she said, handing Bree a faded black-and-white photo.

Bree stared into the face of a young woman with her hair piled on her head. Curls escaped from the sides of the women's upswept hairdo. Her heart-shaped face was very much like Bree's own. Her arm was around a dog that looked like a mix of Golden Retriever and lab. His intelligent eyes stared back at Bree, and he wore a leather collar studded with agates. A lighthouse was in the background, and she could see the whitecaps on the sea beyond.

"I wonder if this is the lighthouse that goes with the deed?" she asked, holding up the yellowed paper.

"She has to be your ancestor," Cassie said. "You look too much alike."

"Our ancestor," Bree said. "Mom said this stuff belonged to Dad." She turned the picture over and read the words penciled on the back.

Adeline Sullivan and Gideon, June 1907.

Chapter One

Addie Sullivan huddled in the closet with the lantern on one side and her dog Gideon on the other. Her voluminous white nightgown lay bunched against her legs. The lighthouse bucked with the wind, and she moaned when thunder shook it even more. Gideon whined and licked her cheek.

She should be helping her father and the villagers search for survivors, but she couldn't move. She'd had many nightmares of events like this. Even now, she could taste the saltwater on her tongue and feel the helplessness of being at the mercy of the waves. Her father said she'd never been through a shipwreck, but all her life she'd woken screaming in the night, imagining she was drowning.

She held a picture under the flickering glow of the lantern. Her mother's secret smile comforted her. The only memory Addie had of her mother was of a sweet voice singing her to sleep. The metal box of pictures and mementos was her only connection to all she'd lost.

Thunder rumbled like a beast rising from the raging waves outside, and the sound drew her unwilling attention again. The picture shook in her hand, and she stared at the picture again. It would be over soon. All she had to do was concentrate on her pictures and it would pass.

Through the storm's fury, another sound floated to her ears. The screams of ship beams tearing asunder. In spite of the lighthouse's foghorn and light, a ship had run aground on the rocks.

The front door slammed, and her father's voice called out. "Addie, I need your help! Get your medical kit."

The urgency in his words broke her paralysis. He'd found a survivor. She forced herself to her feet and grabbed her dressing gown. The medical kit was in the bottom of her chifferobe.

"Come, Gideon," she said.

Carrying the metal box of bandages, acetylsalicylic acid powder, and carbolic acid, she rushed down the steps with her dog on her heels. She found her father in the parlor. The patient lay on the rug by the fireplace. Her father, lighthouse keeper Roy Sullivan, stepped back when she entered the room.

Addie knelt by the man. "Where is he injured?"

"I believe his arm is broken. He has several cuts." Her father stepped over to turn on the gaslights. Their hiss could barely be heard above the storm.

She spared a glance at her father. "You sound weary, Papa."

Lines of fatigue etched her father's face, and his shoulders were more slumped than usual. His gray hair lay plastered against his head. "The wind is ferocious, as is the rain. The rivers will be rising soon."

She turned her attention back to her patient. In his forties, he had little color in his face. Clean-shaven so she guessed him to be wealthy and following the fashion of the day. His expensive suit, though shredded, bore out her speculation. The surf had torn the shoes from his feet, and they were lacerated and bleeding.

"Help me get his coat off," she said.

Her father held him up while she eased off the coat. The tie was missing, and blood showed through the white shirt under the jacket. She took scissors and cut the shirt to gain access to his arm.

"You're right, it's broken," she said "It's God's blessing that he's unconscious."

"Should I go for the doctor?"

"I can set the arm with your help. Hold him here." She indicated the man's forearm.

Steeling herself, she jerked the arm into place. He flinched and moaned and she knew he'd awaken soon. She pulled out a bandage and splinted the arm then sprayed the cuts with carbolic acid and bandaged the worst of them.

"Are there any other survivors?" she asked.

Her father shook his gray head. "None. This man is fortunate he survived. I've never seen the waves so high. The others are still out, but I suspect they'll find no more survivors. Several bodies have washed ashore."

She winced. Though she'd faced shipwrecks all her life, the tragic consequences never failed to move her. She silently prayed for the victims while she tended to the man.

He moaned again. His eyelids fluttered then opened. He blinked a few times then struggled to sit up.

"No, don't move," she said.

"Where am I?"

"At Battery Point Lighthouse. Outside Crescent City," Addie said. "California," she added in case he was a bit addled. She touched his clammy forehead.

"The steamer. It hit the rocks," he muttered.

"That's right. But you're going to be fine."

"What about the rest of the passengers and crew?"

She didn't want to tell him the truth. "My father found no other survivors." His eyes clouded, and she rushed on. "They may have washed up along the shore in a different spot."

His gaze lingered on her face then moved to the locket nestled against her chest. He frowned then struggled to sit up as he reached for it. "Where did you get that?"

Addie stepped back and clutched the locket. "It was my mother's." She looked away from the intensity of his gaze.

"Laura," he muttered. He clutched his broken arm. "My arm hurts."

Laura? She touched his head to check for fever. "Your arm is broken. Let's get you to the chair."

She helped him stand and stagger to the armchair protected with crocheted doilies. He nearly collapsed onto the cushion, but his gaze remained fixed on her locket.

She was ready to escape his piercing stare. "I'll make you some tea."

In the kitchen, she stirred the embers of the fire in the wood range then poured out hot water from the reservoir into a teapot. The storm was beginning to blow itself out, and she no longer saw the flashes of lightning that had so terrified her. She turned and nearly spilled the hot tea on her when she heard her father's raised voice.

"You will not do this," he shouted.

In all her twenty-five years she'd never heard him lift his voice. "What on earth?" she murmured.

Hurriedly placing cups and the teapot on a tray, she hurried to the parlor. Both men were tight-lipped and tense when she entered.

She glanced at her father who wouldn't meet her eyes. "Is everything all right?"

When neither man answered her, she placed the tray on the fireplace hearth and poured it into the cups. What could they possibly be arguing about? They were strangers. Was their guest trying to leave and her father had stopped him?

She stirred honey into her father's tea, then handed it to him. He still didn't meet her gaze and said nothing. "Honey?" she asked their guest.

He shook his head. "Black, please." He took the cup awkwardly in his left hand. The tea sloshed in his shaking hand. His gaze darted to her face and stayed there. "Amazing," he murmured.


He set his tea down and glanced at her father. His lips tightened. "Your resemblance to your mother."

"I look nothing like my mother. You must have me mixed up with someone else." Addie had often coveted the lovely brunette hair she'd seen in photos of her mother. So straight and silky and quite unlike her own riot of auburn curls that reached her waist. She actually looked more like her grandmother, the woman in the picture in her locket. "What is your name?"

"Walter Driscoll. I was headed to Oregon from Mercy Falls."

"Near Ferndale," she said. "There's a lighthouse there."

"That's right. Luckily I had no goods on the steamer other than my personal belongings. I can take a ferry or a stagecoach back home."

His voice was still weak and he was pale. "Is your arm paining you?"

He nodded. "It's getting quite bad."

She grabbed her medical supplies and pulled out the acetylsalicylic acid. She stirred some in his tea and added honey to cover the bitterness. "Drink that. It will help."

But not enough. She wished she had morphine. The doctor would have some but it was after midnight and she hesitated to disturb him so late when it wasn't a matter of life-and-death.

She waited until he gulped down his tea. "Let me help you to the guest room," she said. "Sleep is the best thing." He wobbled when she helped him up the steps to the spare room across from hers.

Her father followed close behind with Gideon. "I'll help him prepare for bed," her father said.

She studied her father's face. His mouth was set, and she could have sworn she saw panic in his eyes. "Call if you need anything."

Closing the door behind her, she went across the hall to her bedroom and shut herself in with Gideon. The dog leaped to her bed and curled at the foot. She petted his ears. The foghorn tolled out across the water. The fury of the waves had subsided, and the lulling sound of the surf against the shore came to her ears. It helped drown out the murmur of voices across the hall. Her father was still upset, but she couldn't make sense of his words, just his tone.

She left the sleeping dog and stepped to the window. She opened it and drew in a fresh breath of salt-laden air. Her terror seemed faraway now, as though it had happened to someone else. The light from the lighthouse tower pierced the fog hovering near the shore. She saw no other ships in the dark night, but the fog might be hiding them. She prayed for the safety of any other travelers out on this dark night.

A tap came at the door. "Addie?" Her father's voice spoke on the other side of door. "I need to speak with you a moment, child."

When she threw open the door, she found her father leaning against the jamb as though the weight of the world rested on his shoulders. "Are you all right, Papa? Does our guest need me?" Gideon raised his head at the sound of her voice.

He held a metal lockbox in his hands. "No, dear. Could you come to the parlor?"

"Of course." She still wore her dressing gown, so she followed him down the stairs. Gideon was close on her heels.

"Sit down." He indicated the armless ladies' chair.

She obeyed his directive and sat with her hands clasped in her lap. Her eyes were gritty and burning with fatigue. The grimness on her father's face made her pulse kick.

"What is it, Papa? What's wrong?" Had he been upset she'd stayed paralyzed in her room while the storm raged?

He ran his hand over his balding pate. "I never wanted you to know," he muttered.

Her muscles bunched, and her hands began to shake. "Know?"

"Mr. Driscoll will tell you if I do not, so I find myself in a position I'd hoped to avoid." He thrust a key into the lock of the metal box and opened it. "Perhaps it is best if you simply read through these items." He laid the box on her lap.

The papers inside were old and yellowed. "Papa, you're frightening me," she whispered. "What are these papers?" She didn't dare touch them.

His Adam's apple bobbed. "They deal with your heritage, Addie. I-I am not your real father, though no man could love you more than I do."

Of all the things he could have told her, this was nothing she could have expected. Where was her fan? She was suffocating. "Not my father? I don't understand."

He chewed on his lip. "The nightmares of drowning you've suffered all your life? You experienced a shipwreck when you were about two. I found you on the shore and brought you home."

"You're jesting, Papa," she whispered.

She pressed her trembling lips together and studied his dear face. The anguish in his eyes convinced her he spoke the truth. Not her father? This man she loved more than life? He'd bought her a sewing machine when she first expressed an interest in dressmaking. He'd saved his pennies to buy her every Elizabeth Barrett Browning book that lined the shelf in her room. Even the stacks of fabric in her sewing room he'd purchased to give her the start she needed. She'd seen him make many sacrifices for her over the years. A lightkeeper's salary was modest.

Pain pulsed behind her eyes. And in her heart. She needed air. She started to rise to go outside, then sank back to her chair when her muscles refused to obey.

"Say something, Addie," he said, his voice low.

Gideon thrust his head against her leg and whined. She entwined her fingers in his fur and found a measure of comfort. "Is Addie even my name?" she managed to ask past a throat too tight to even swallow a sip of water.

He glanced away as if he couldn't hold her gaze. "No."

"Who am I?" she whispered.

"I believe you're Caroline Eaton, daughter of Henry and Laura Eaton. There are newspaper clippings in the file that lead me to that conclusion. I never knew who paid for us to keep you."

"You were paid for my upkeep?" Would the horror never end? Her eyes burned with unshed tears. "So the sewing machine was paid for by someone else? The books, the fabric, my clothes?"

He held up his hands. "No, no! I couldn't take money from you. It's all been put in a savings account for you, to care for you after I'm gone. The bank book is in the box."

Fresh tears welled. Martha Sullivan wasn't her mother either. She had dim memories of a mother's soft hand. Was it this Laura that she remembered? "When were you going to tell me, Papa? Or were you just going to let me find this out after you died?"

"I've wanted to tell you many times, but I-I couldn't."

"What business is it of Mr. Driscoll's? Why is he interfering?"

"Our guest gave his sister the locket you're wearing. She died right off shore here and he was on an annual pilgrimage to the area."

"He's my uncle?" She rubbed her forehead. "I don't understand anything. Why would someone pay you to care for me?"

"I suspected the person wanted you out of the way. I didn't probe too deeply. I loved you, you see. From the first moment you put your tiny arms around my neck, you were mine. Martha had died six months earlier, and I needed you. So did Jennie."

Addie buried her face in her hands. "Now what, Papa?" Gideon whined again and pushed his cold nose against her cheek.

"Mr. Driscoll wants to take you to your family." He hesitated. "But he doesn't want to introduce you to your fa-father," he choked then swallowed hard.

"You're my father!"

He nodded. "He wants to find out who is behind this incident. And he feels you might be in danger if your identity is revealed too soon."

"And you're allowing me to go into that?"

He swallowed hard. "If I object, he will file charges for kidnapping."

"That's despicable," she whispered.

"Quite." He cleared his throat. "You'll enter the household as his ward, a distant relation he's brought in to care for your nephew."

She had a nephew. And evidently a sister or a brother. She gulped in air. "Are we even sure this is my family, Papa?"

He pressed her hand. "Read the papers in the box, Addie. You'll see there is no doubt." He rose and went toward the steps. "I'll leave you alone to absorb this news, my dear. I'm utterly exhausted." His shoulders were stooped as he climbed the stairs.

Addie sat frozen on the chair with the metal box crushed to her chest. She dropped it to the floor, and the papers scattered. With a cry she fell to her knees and buried her face in her dog's fur.

Chapter Two

The offices of Mercy Steamboats sat on the corner of Main and Redwood. A three-story brick building, it presented an austere front to the world. John Sullivan paused at the door, then stepped into the entry. Mrs. Andrews greeted him with a slight sneer in her voice as always. Though he managed the line from Mercy Falls to San Francisco, most employees had heard Henry bellow at him enough that they knew his father-in-law merely tolerated his presence.

"Mr. Eaton is in his office," Mrs. Andrews said. "He said to send you in when you got here."

John walked down the tiled hall to the first door on the left. The imposing walnut door was closed. He stared at it, then gave a brisk rap on the polished surface.

"Come," Henry's voice called.

He'd rather go. John entered and closed the door behind him. "You wanted to see me, Henry?"

When he'd married Elizabeth, she'd insisted he call her parents Mother and Father, but it had never been natural. Now that she was gone, he'd been glad to revert. He suspected Henry felt the same way.

Henry glanced over the top of his spectacles. "Sit."

John did as ordered and studied his father-in-law for clues to the reason for the summons. Henry's expression was as dark as the clouds rolling in from the west. A tall man, he had a thick head of brown hair that held only a few streaks of gray in spite of being in his mid-fifties. His brown suit-impeccably cut of course-fit his muscular frame perfectly. His waxed mustache suited his angular face.

John always felt slightly unkempt around Henry, though he tried his best to follow his father-in-law's example. A lock of his dark hair always refused to cooperate or a speck of mud invariably found its way onto his shoes the minute he stepped away from the shoeshine stand.

The silence lengthened as Henry ignored him to peruse the papers in front of him. He finally pushed away the stack and fixed his gaze on John. "What do you have to say for yourself?"

"About what?" Probably the wrong thing to say. Henry expected him to be able to read his mind.

Henry lifted a paper from his desk. "I received the revenue report this morning."

"I thought you'd be pleased. We increased revenue five percent over this time last month."

"But it's one percent less than this same period last year. You must do better, John. When I gave you control of the San Francisco line, I expected you to increase our share of the market by twenty-five percent. We're nowhere close to that figure."

John knew better than to make excuses. "I've been talking to an advertising firm about running ads in the San Francisco papers."

"That costs money. Word of mouth should be good enough. I'd hoped to be able to promote you to a partnership by now, but you make any promotion difficult." Henry's voice rose. "If the revenue doesn't increase next month, we need to evaluate whether you'd be better off working in another capacity."

John worked to keep his expression impassive. "Henry, I've explained to you that steamboat travel is faltering all over the country. The train is more convenient. We need to be prepared for the coming decline. I've investigated buying a share in one of the trains and . . ."

Henry held up his hand. "You know how I feel about the trains. Noisy and smelly."

"But profitable. You can't hide your head in the sand, Henry. The world is changing."

"Not in my lifetime. No more excuses, John. I don't care what you do, but get those revenues up."

"I'll do my best." John rose to escape the room. He'd nearly reached the door and sanity again when Henry called to him.

"One more thing, John."

John turned and raised a brow.

"I received a telegram from Walter. He's bringing in a governess for Edward, a Miss Adeline Sullivan. Some distant cousin. He'll be escorting her here at the end of the week."

"I'd thought to send Edward to the school we discussed in San Francisco when he was ready. He's too young for a governess just yet."

"I believe it's just what my grandson needs. A head start never hurt anyone. Edward has enough of a handicap to overcome. He'll need all the mental chThomasges he can get to thrive in today's world."

Heat rose John's neck. "Edward is very bright. He'll have no trouble with school."

"He has fits, John. Say what you like, but the lad will be hard pressed to make anything of himself. He's an Eaton and my heir. We must do whatever we can to help him."

"He already knows his letters. His epilepsy won't hold him back. He has his mother's spunk."

The last comment brought the faintest twitch of a smile to Henry's face. "It's commendable you have taught him so much, but it's time he had a governess." Henry waved his hand. "That's all."

John opened his mouth, then pressed his lips together. This wasn't the first time he'd been tempted to throw his job back in Henry's face and stomp out of the building, but he had Edward to think of. Henry wouldn't think twice about blackballing him with every other firm in the state. And with his connections, he'd have no trouble in taking Edward from him. John inclined his head and stepped into the hall. Only when the door was closed behind him did he allow his displeasure out.

"A governess!" he muttered. "Hired without even a consultation with his own father." He stomped to his office and shut himself into the sanctuary. Not only did he have to worry about increasing the revenue, he had to deal with a new situation at home. Maybe he could show Henry how unsuitable this woman was.


The stage passed a picturesque lighthouse on the coast. "Who mans it?" Addie asked Mr. Driscoll. He hadn't spoken in the half an hour since they'd neared Mercy Falls. She and Driscoll were the only passengers since the last stop in Eureka.

"I believe it's unmanned at the moment. They're looking for a new lightkeeper, according to the paper."

She could suggest her father apply for the job. It would be a comfort to have him so close.

The coach left the seaside behind and traveled up the hill toward town. The vehicle rounded a curve and began to slow as a town neared. Addie craned her head out the window. The very air smelled different here. Piney and fecund with the thick redwood forest surrounding them. The stage rolled through Mercy Falls slowly, and she took in the small shops and brick buildings of the bustling town.

She gathered her valise from the floor by her feet. "Are they expecting me?" she asked. "I don't understand the subterfuge. It seems pointless."

"I only saw the resemblance between you and your mother because I was looking for it after noticing the locket. I doubt anyone else will notice, but I want to be careful. For your sake."

"I hate this," she said. Gideon laid his muzzle on her shoe at her tone of voice. "And I dislike wearing my hair up. It gives me an abominable headache."

The stage jerked to a stop. Moments later, the driver opened the door. Mr. Driscoll disembarked first then extended his hand and helped her alight. She'd just finished the pale green dress she wore, and the boots were new, a gift from Mr. Driscoll. Her hat, decorated with tulle, was a concoction she'd created to give herself courage, though she found it failing now

A lump lodged in her throat. Her father had been pale and somber when she left, and it had been all she could do not to throw herself against him to cry her heart out. She buried her fingers in her dog's coat.

"I'd like to send Papa a telegram to let him know I've arrived safely."

"Very well. The Western Union station is across the street. Do you wish me to come with you?"

She read his tone and shook her head. "I'll only be a moment. Stay, Gideon." She hurried across the street and entered the building. In her telegram she told her father about the open appointment at the Mercy Falls lighthouse and asked him to consider a transfer to be near her.

Back in the sunshine, she dawdled along the sidewalk and smiled at several passersby. Such an interesting town. She wished she had time to browse the shops, but she forced herself to rejoin Mr. Driscoll.

"Shall we walk or is there a carriage to greet us?" she asked Mr. Driscoll.

"The carriage is there." He indicated a grand brougham across the street.

He offered his arm, and she took it. The streets were a muddy quagmire after the rain, and she lifted her skirt to clear the muck. A driver helped her into the carriage.

"How far to the estate?" she asked Mr. Driscoll.

"At the edge of town. Five minutes," he said, settling onto the leather seat beside her. He cast a disparaging glance at Gideon. "You should have left that dog behind. I don't know how I'll explain it to Henry."

She tipped up her chin. "I wouldn't come without him."

"Which is the only reason I finally agreed. But it was most unfortunate."

She watched as the carriage rolled through town. A drugstore and ice cream shop looked interesting . She noticed a sign that said Mercy Stagecoach Company. Before she could ask, Mr. Driscoll pointed it out as belonging to her father. She stared but saw no one entering or exiting. There were several dress shops and haberdasheries in town, but she saw no sign advertising a dressmaker nor a milliner though she was sure there must be several in a town this size.

"Henry owns half the town," Driscoll said. "The bank, the creamery too."

Addie shrank back against her seat. "I fear I'll be out of place."

"You'll be fine. As a relative of mine, you'll be treated like one of the family."

"Won't your sister-my aunt-know I'm an imposter?"

"Clara barely notices I'm her brother. She's lost track of most of our relations."

The carriage slowed at large stone columns. A massive iron gate barred the way. The vehicle stopped until the guard opened the gate then it turned into a long driveway.

"Why is it gated?" she asked. "Are they in danger?"

He laughed. "You have much to learn, Adeline. The Eatons don't mingle with the lower class other than to employ them. It's better that way."

"Better for whom?"

His smile faltered. He turned away from her gaze. "There's your new home."

Addie caught her breath at the sight of the large home. Three stories high, it rambled in so many directions she had to crane her neck to take it all in. Five or six colors of paint emphasized the architecture. The porch encased two sides of the manor, and the railing made her think of toy blocks. The red trim accented the medium gray-green siding. The door and shutters were black. The home had so many peaks and Carrington, it made her dizzy to try to take them all in. Numerous outbuildings peeked from the massive redwoods that shaded the yard. The forest began barely ten feet to the back corner of the house.

"It's quite lovely," she said.

"Henry attends to every detail," Mr. Driscoll said. "You'll see many homes such as these in town. We call them 'butterfat palaces' since most were constructed from money made from dairying. Henry's is the grandest by far."

"Did Mr. Eaton made his money in dairying too?"

"In the beginning. He owns many other businesses now, as I mentioned." He stepped from the carriage and helped her down. "This is a dangerous game we play. I promised your father I would let no harm befall you so we must hide our hand. Wait and watch."

"Why would anyone want to harm me? I am no threat."

"Someone took great care to keep you from Henry. I suspect that person will do anything to cover his tracks as well. If Henry finds out who has done this to him, that person's life would be ruined. Henry would see to that."

"He sounds very formidable."

"He doesn't suffer fools gladly and he expects those around him to be loyal. Whoever did this must hate him very much."

She accepted the arm he offered, and they walked past banks of goldenrod and salvia. Gideon followed at her heels. "How about you, Mr. Driscoll? How do you feel about Mr. Eaton?"

"He's a loyal friend to those he trusts but he can turn into a dangerous enemy. He's been good to me for my sisters' sake."

They reached the front door. He opened it and motioned for her to enter. "Stay," he told the dog.

She repeated the command and stepped into the entry. The first thing she noticed was the scent of something baking. A berry pie, perhaps. Then she saw the opulence of the hall. Polished walnut floors and woodwork, richly-colored wallpaper and an Oriental runner down the entry and up the six-foot wide staircase. A peek through a doorway revealed a parlor with lovely red upholstered furniture and fine pictures.

She craned her head to look at the pictures that lined the hall walls. A woman's portrait caught her eye. "My mother? I'd like to know more about her."

"That's not her. When the time is right I'll tell you more."

She glanced at her shoes and realized she was tracking mud on the carpet.

"Oh dear," she muttered. She quickly retraced her steps to the porch and removed her shoes. "Might I have a rag to clean up the mess?"

"Dolly will get it. Come along," Mr. Driscoll commanded. "I'll show you to your room then introduce you to your charge."

Her pulse leaped at the thought that the deception was about to begin. view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

1) Addie desperately wanted to belong to a family. How easy is it to change who you are to gain approval?
2) How do you gauge your self worth? How should it be gauged?
3) John wanted to protect his son from the world. What are the pros of this? The cons?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

Dear Reader,

I've always been fascinated by lighthouses. A couple of years ago, I visited a lighthouse in northern California and watched the seagulls and frigatebirds diving for their dinner. The idea of The LIghtkeeper's Daughter popped into my head, and I knew I had to write that story of a young woman, the daughter of a lightkeeper, who discovers she isn't who she thought she was. And someone would do anything to make sure she's never reunited with her wealthy father.

The story idea cried out for a historical setting, and I've always been fascinated by the turn of the last century. I loved the dresses (I probably wouldn't want to be stuck wearing them though! No corsets for me.) and the innovations happening nearly every day. There was such a difference between the very wealthy and the regular people. What is really important in life? Addie Sullivan has to decide that for herself.

I hope when readers close the book they come away with the realization that real love accepts us for who we are and doesn't try to change us.

Happy Reading!

Colleen Coble


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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "light read"by Chelsea B. (see profile) 04/05/11

What I love about Colleen Coble is that I don't know who the criminal is in chapter one. This book ties all the fun stuff together (romance, suspense, humor) with some historical fiction.

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