Calvin left, leaving me with an empty feeling. I unrolled my sleeves, tired of having the fabric bunched up on my arms. I heard a splash and looked over to see that Henry and Liam had jumped into the river.
Alarmed, I sat up and yelled, “What are you doing?”
“We’re cooling off and washing off the sand.” Liam smiled. “Care to join us?” He pulled off his shirt, rinsed it, and tossed it onto the sand.
Henry did the same thing. I wasn’t surprised when they moved onto their pants. I was glad Henry had picked up on our custom of underwear. Seeing him naked wasn’t something I had any interest in.
The offer to join them was one that seemed almost too good to pass up. Hot, sandy, and sticky, I could picture how amazing the water would feel. Still, unlike the guys, I couldn’t just swim in underwear.
Liam seemed to read my thoughts. “Come on, Char. You wear bikinis, don’t you? Your bra isn’t any worse.”
Henry nudged him. “I think Calvin might have a different opinion.”
“And Calvin isn’t here. She’s hot and wants to clean off.”
The water looked so cool, and all the sand was starting to get uncomfortable. After another moment’s hesitation, I gave in to the sheer need for relief. “Can you guys turn around?”
“Sure.” They both turned away.
Liam was right about the bikini thing, but that felt different. A bikini was supposed to be worn in public. A white cotton bra—not so much.
“No peeking.” I slipped off my boots then stripped off my shirt and pants. I brought my clothes down to the edge of the water to rinse them out.
Henry laughed. “No offense, Charlotte, but I have no desire to see you naked, or to deal with Calvin if I did.”
“I’m not naked!” I quickly submerged myself in the river. The water immediately cooled me off.
Liam turned. “Not completely.” His eyes zeroed in on what he could see of my chest above the water line.
“Swimming in my clothes would defeat the purpose of cleaning up.”
Liam smiled. “I don’t have a problem with it.” He joked around a lot but not usually about my lack of clothing. He treaded water next to me. “So you never told us, what did the message from Ruth say?”
“What do you mean I never told you? I told you we had to look in the swamps.”
“That’s all she said?” Liam asked skeptically. “That would be a really short message.”
“Some things should stay between Essences.”
Henry grinned. “Yeah, I am certain that is what happened.”
I rolled my eyes. “You’ve gotten mighty sure of yourself since I first met you, Henry Ashwell. Don’t forget I have powers.”
“Powers you cannot use right now.”
“It would be easy to do—”
Liam swam over closer to me. “Are you threatening us?”
“Me? Would I ever threaten someone?”
Henry splashed me. “You threaten Kevin all the time.”
I splashed him back before pulling the leather tie out of my hair. I leaned back to get my hair wet. “That’s because he’s my brother. You and I are not related.”
Liam moved behind me. “Do you need help?”
“Help with what?”
“Your hair. You have a lot of sand in it.” Without waiting for an answer, he took my hair in his hands and started to wash out some of the sand.
There was something so intimate about the action that it made me nervous. I jerked away slightly. “I can do it myself.”
“There’s no reason to.” His voice was soft, almost like a whisper.
“Thanks.” I couldn’t deny that it felt good to have Liam so close. What was wrong with me? I turned to pull away from him “You have to stop.”
As soon as the words left my mouth, his lips claimed mine. His kiss was demanding, passionate, and needy. I needed to break the contact, but I couldn’t. It was almost like our first kiss—supernatural—but twisted up in it was desire that neither of us could control. The kiss got more intense, and even though my brain yelled at me, the power was too strong.