Patrick walked toward the waterhole, the sound of his father’s departing carriage drifting off in the distance behind him. He had come here to swim several times over the years, finding it a welcomed solace from the heat in this country. Was that why Hannah had invited him here? He could think of no other reason. Even if his assumption was wrong, and this visit was brief, he was just happy to be seeing her again.
As he neared the water, his gaze went to the dark-haired woman sitting on the bank, her feet dangling in the water. He was going to announce himself, but in truth, he didn’t know what to say. He cleared his throat nervously, hoping that would be enough to draw her attention.
She turned to look at him, a huge smile filling her face. “I feared you wouldn’t be able to come.”
“My father dropped me off on his way to deal with some business in Inkerman,” he explained. “He’s going to collect me on his way home.”
She stood and stepped toward him. “How long can you stay?”
He shrugged. “Maybe an hour. Maybe longer.”
The pair stood there, their gazes joined. He wanted to ask her so many questions, hungering to know just who she was.
“Can you swim?” she asked. “Or we could just go for a walk around the area.”
Her uncertainty confused him. “Why did you ask me to meet you here?”
She bent down and slipped off her shoes. “A swim seems like a better idea in this heat.” Her hands went to the buttons on her blouse, unfastening them.
“What are you doing?”
She giggled. “You can’t expect me to go swimming in this. I’ll drown from the weight of it.”
Patrick watched as she stripped down to her chemise and drawers before turning and running into the water. Hesitating only a moment longer, he took off his shoes, then his shirt, throwing it beside her clothes.
“Is that all you’re taking off?” she asked.
He walked toward her and waded through the water until he was only a few feet from her. “I think it’s for the best.”
She began to giggle. “Are you shy?”
He shook his head, sharing in her humour. “I just think what lies beneath my trousers is a bit too much of an introduction given we only met an hour ago.”
Her laughter began to fade, and he watched as a cheeky grin spread across her lips. “I’ll take my chemise off if you take your trousers off.”
He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You can’t be serious?”
She raised her brow. “What if I am?”
The pair waded in the water, their gazes joined, each wondering if Hannah would indeed go through with her side of the bargain. Patrick knew he shouldn’t encourage such behaviour, but the thought of being so close to this woman—and so revealed—both thrilled and scared him. Never had he met a woman so forward, and he needed to know now more than ever if she was serious or just all bluff. “You have yourself a deal,” he finally said.
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