Just prior to my visit, however, I watched an episode of Haunted History that featured events witnessed by patrons of the inn. Visitors had seen the headless torso of a Civil War ghost while another spirit, dubbed the “gentleman ghost”, had frightened several females by joining them on their beds. Needless to say, I was nervous when I crawled into the antique four-poster my first night there, which, incidentally, was a Friday the thirteenth. (There’s a fine line being daring and stupid.)
Whether it was just my imagination or really the famed gentleman ghost, I felt an unmistakable presence sink onto on the bed just behind my knees that night and the night thereafter.
I knew if I had opened my eyes, I would have seen a ghost.
The next day, while on one of the historic Charleston ghost walk tours, our guide asked if anyone was staying at the inn. Sheepishly, I raised my hand and she inquired if the ghost had sat on the bed with me. I recounted my experience but told her I’d seen the episode of Haunted History.
With a wave of her hand, she dismissed the History Channel’s version, which portended the gentleman ghost was a man who had committed suicide in the house.
The guide claimed she knew the identity of the real gentleman ghost. “Why, it’s Stede Bonnet,” she said in her lovely Low Country drawl. “He was incredibly handsome and was known as the ‘gentleman pirate’. He was hanged on the site where the house stands now.”
The romantic story of Stede Bonnet has fascinated me ever since.
Stede Bonnet was christened July 29, 1687. He was born into a wealthy family from Barbados. He married Mary Allamby in 1709, and the couple had four children. Shortly after the birth and subsequent death of his daughter in 1716, he purchased a ship—which he named Revenge—hired a crew and sailed off to become a pirate.
Shortly thereafter, he encountered Blackbeard. The two formed an uneasy alliance but after a falling out, Bonnet petitioned the governor of North Carolina for a pardon and a Lettre of Marque, which would classify him as a privateer instead of a pirate.
When a hurricane prevented him from obtaining his Lettre of Marque, he returned to a life of piracy.
In the late summer of 1718, Colonel William Rhett led an expedition against pirates along the Carolina coast and captured Stede Bonnet at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Bonnet was held in Charleston but managed to escape disguised in a woman’s dress.
He was recaptured and, despite impassioned entreaties for his life by the ladies of Charleston, he was hanged for piracy on December 10, 1718, at White Point Gardens.
I love basing the characters in my romance novels on actual historical figures. The hero in my first Phantom Lovers book was Thomas Benton Smith who was based on a Confederate Brigadier General.
Stede Bonnet, whose fascinating tale is not often told, seemed the perfect choice for my third book in the series, Watchkeeper.
When Gwendolyn Wyse booked a room at a bed and breakfast in romantic Charleston, South Carolina, she’d hoped to rekindle the flame in her cold, unresponsive husband. What she didn’t expect were divorce papers—or her husband’s untimely death.
Shocked and desperate, Gwen relies on her background as a witch and her knowledge of magic, invoking the rite of twilight to bring her husband’s soul back from the dead. But nothing prepares her for the swashbuckling spirit who answers her call—Stede Bonnet, the gentleman pirate, who died on that very spot three centuries prior and who now possesses her husband’s body.
Stede offers Gwen all the passion she never had with her husband. But when the pirate lays claim to her heart, Gwen must choose between the man she loves and the demands of Stede’s mortal enemy, a villainous spirit with the power to take away everything Gwen holds most dear—including her pirate lover.
“Bloody damn hell!” A ragged groan tore from his throat as he collapsed and covered her.
Gwen lay on top of the scattered divorce papers underneath the man who’d confronted her with them. She was trembling and sated and flooded with renewed love for him.
She ran her hands over his back, which was misted with perspiration. His hot breath fanned her ear and she turned her head more fully toward him as he brushed his mouth against the sensitive shell. He pressed a kiss there and then propped on one elbow to gaze into her eyes.
Gwen’s stomach tightened at the combination of love and lust in his expression. She cleared her throat. “I don’t suppose you plan to divorce me after this.”
His forehead furrowed. “Divorce?”
Gwen swallowed. “I can change if you can. I want this to work.”
“What to work, luv?”
He burst into laughter. “Marriage?”
Gwen was stunned—and bruised. Her hand slid from his shoulder and she swiped at a lock of sweat-dampened hair that had stolen across her face. “Yes, our marriage.”
“Marriage?” he repeated incredulously.
Gwen’s eyes narrowed. “If you still want a divorce after this, then by all means, you fucking bastard, give me a pen and I’ll sign the papers.”
He cleared his throat. “Luv, how can we possibly divorce when we are not married?”
Anger flared. She slapped at his shoulders. “Get off me and stop with that fake accent.”
He made no move to get off her. Instead, he endured her feeble pushing and slapping until she grew weary and stopped. When she was finally breathless, he said, “Exactly who, my lovely lady witch, do you think I am?”
He was still semi-erect inside her.
But who was he?
Suddenly, a blast of wind rushed through the room, rattling the windows and door violently. Roger’s divorce papers swirled around her while the plantation blinds rattled. The temperature in the room felt as if it had abruptly dropped twenty degrees.
“Major Stede Bonnet!” a voice reverberated in the tiny room. The sound of it had an unearthly, metallic rasp to it.
Gwen gasped. Her gaze riveted to the pale apparition of a pirate. He stood inches from the bed with his legs braced wide and his hands on his hips. She froze.
Wearing a cutlass belted to his hip and twin flintlock pistols jammed into the waistband of his breeches, he was dressed from head to toe in the eighteenth-century garb of a pirate. A greasy black, braided beard jutted from his chin, hanging halfway down his chest. His bottle green coat was so long it nearly concealed his trousers. The coat’s impossibly wide cuffs were turned up and held in place with big brass buttons. Thigh-high black leather boots and a ragged, feathered tricorn hat completed his pirate ensemble.
“Edward Teach,” seethed the man who was still embedded inside her.
Gwen’s gaze flicked back and forth between them. Her heart beat rapidly. Well…she had wanted to meet a ghost. But this one looked downright mean.
The sulfurous odor of brimstone permeated the air.
Chills swept her arms and legs despite the carnal heat of the man on top of her. The voice in her head told her there was no possibility of life ever going to back to normal. Not after this.