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Charles Schuler returned from war whole in body, but broken in spirit. Now all he wants to do is settle down on the family farm and join his life to Lily, the water spirit who has been his best friend and secret comrade since he was six years old.
But he soon discovers that greedy men have dammed Lily's river, using her strength in pursuit of their own selfish needs. He’s galvanized to desperate action…but will he be able to save her, or is it too late?
~~~~~ Excerpt ~~~~~
Charlie followed her as she turned, and the breeze brought the scent of her hair to his nose. He shifted uncomfortably. Over the past year he had been growing more and more aware of Lily's physical presence during their time together. In fact, it was now a rare day when he did not have to duck into the barn after spending time with her and bring himself to shuddering release.
Today Lily was wearing a dress which seemed to incorporate all the flowers of spring. Thousands of delicate petals were somehow woven together into a multi-hued pastel garment which clung to her body like a second skin. From his vantage point beside her, he could peek down the open neckline and see the swells of her growing breasts.
She turned back towards him, her eyes wicked, and he flushed crimson.
“What were you looking at, naughty little boy?”
“I'm not little anymore,” he said, stung by her tone. “I'm taller than you are now.” Indeed, that had been a day to savor last autumn, when he finally passed her in height.
Lily flipped a hand dismissively. “All little boys are the same. They all want what they can't have.”
Hardly daring to breathe, Charlie reached out his hand and took hers, their fingers entwining. “I'm not like other boys,” he said.
She turned her head and looked deep into his eyes. He sank into them, feeling as if he were drowning. She cupped his cheeks in her tan hands, the cool skin a balm on his hot face.
“No, you're not. But neither am I like other girls, Charlie,” she said sadly. “Don't expect me to give you what they can.” Soft as a whisper, her lips brushed his cheek, making him burn.
Suddenly, she bounced to her feet, then dove into the pool, giving him a heart-stopping glimpse of her long legs before she sliced into the water. She bobbed to the surface, her eyes laughing. “Come in for a swim!”
He peeled off his shirt and set it aside on the warm grass. He then climbed up the path to the waterfall. He backed away a few steps, then charged forward, his bare feet slapping against sun-warmed stone. For an instant he flew through the air, then hit the water with a tremendous splash, throwing spray in all directions.
He came to the surface with a grin, watching as Lily wiped water from her streaming face. Treading water, he took in her delicate, finely-carved features, blossoming like a flower in the sun.
When she is grown, she will be beautiful, he thought with sudden prescience. I should tell her. Tell her how I feel.
He took a deep breath and was at her side in a few strokes. As promised, Lily had been a good teacher, and he was a strong swimmer, even if he had never been in a body of water bigger than her pool.
He stopped only a few inches away from her. Reaching through the water, he set his hands on her hips, feeling her muscles flex as their legs slowly kicked in the clear water, occasionally brushing each other. He looked into her eyes, trying to come up with the right words.
“Lily. Lilaea.” He took a deep breath. “I-”
“There you are,” came a voice from behind him. He spun in the water, seeing Maggie standing on the riverbank. She made a disgusted face. “Get out of the creek and into your shirt and shoes, Charlie. Mama's been calling you for supper for the past twenty minutes.”
Swearing under his breath, Charlie turned back to Lily, but she was gone.