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Can I borrow this item? Can I get a copy? Can I view this online? Ask a librarian. Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and other First Nations people are advised that this catalogue contains names, recordings and images of deceased people and other content that may be culturally sensitive. There'll be plenty of time for you to get acquainted with Shannon in the weeks to come. The next blast of cold air from the opening door preceded Mark's arrival as he slung a sheepskin jacket on to the straight-backed settle by the door to reveal a denim shirt and moleskin pants, and stood with hands thrust deep into his back pockets and his feet slightly apart.

The head-to-toe appraisal she received from enigmatic eyes after a rather abrupt greeting had Shannon's indignation flaring uncontrollably and she found herself staring back at him in a belligerent manner which, she conceded wryly, was not normally reserved for one's employer. But then his wasn't the normal conduct meted out to an emloyee either, she excused herself righteously, and continued to hold that steady gaze unblinkingly until his lips curved sardonically and, in confusion, she swung her eyes away.

Softly spoken words drawled slowly across the room. Shannon's eyes lifted once more and she looked at him puzzledly. One eyebrow rose in succinct irony. Why hadn't she thought to scuff her boots a little and wash some of the newness from her clothes before leaving Sydney?

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I don't know what what you mean,' she stammered, feeling the telltale heat rising in her cheeks. I didn't think anyone would make a federal case out of it. Or aren't jillaroos sup posed to wear anything new around here? I don't take kindly to being crossed, so think twice before you commit yourself to something you can't handle,' he warned grimly, and strode past her without so much as a sideways glance. Shannon swallowed hard and wished herself miles away.

Attractive he might be, but there was also a hint of ruthlessness about Mark Seymour that couldn't be ignored and which didn't augur well for her first outing in his company. Well, it was too late for that now. She had committed herself three weeks ago whenn she allowed Mr Crawford to believe the story Guy had invented, and her reasons for not telling the truth then still held good to her mind. She had no intention of causing trouble for Guy either with his father, or with Mark Seymour! Still, she attempted to view the matter in a more optimistic light, perhaps she was making things out to be a lot worse than they actually were.

Quite often it was possible to build matters up in one's own mind to proportions they just didn't possess when the problem was faced squarely. She expelled a deeply held breath and turned back to the eggs she had been breaking into the frying pan, determined to put her best foot forward and leave the rest to fate. I think the mare will be quite suitable for Shannon's use. She had more than enough on her mind at the moment to be worrying over family differences of opinion they could sort that out for themselves. First, and by no means least, was the question as to whether one could actually ride a horse without having been taught beforehand.

If she looked too uncomfortable in the saddle she could always say That she was out of practice?

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No, that wouldn't do. Her mind tumbled onwards feverishly. Ah, that was more like it! She could tell him she had taken a bad fall the last time she had been riding and hadn't quite got her nerve back yet. Yes, that would have to do Marching into the stone flagged stables, she grimaced as her untrained eye ran over the four horses left in them stalls. Now all she had to do was find the right mount. From some dim recollection she had the feeling piebald was a mixture of colours, and with this thought in mind she began a closer inspection of the waiting animals.

The first two she discarded immediately one was brown, the other chestnut but the next two had her sighing despondently. Which was the piebald? The slightly smaller horse was a sort of chestnut colour thickly interspersed with blotches and streaks of white, while the other was a beautiful creamy tan colour with white markings on its face and legs, and bearing a white mane and tail. Mentally Shannon tossed up between the two of them, chose the smaller, and her decision made, began looking about her for a bridle.

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This much she had gleaned from watching movies and television. Finding one with the reins already attached proved to be easy, but getting the bit into the mare's mouth was something else again and caused her to wonder if it was a case of the horse sensing she was nervously unfamiliar and playing up because of it, but at last she succeeded in getting it over the lower teeth and hurried to buckle the cheek strap before anything else could happen. The animal led willingly out of its straw lined stall but, once outside, immediately began to dance and stamp skittishly, hooves ringing on the stone floor and a playful head pushing into Shannon's shoulder when she attempted to tether the reins to a ring bolt beside the stable door.

How long he had been there she didn't know she could only hope he hadn't witnessed too much of her slow and unsure handling of the horse still tending to prance at the end of her reins. You can drive? No, even she wasn't naive enough to think she could bluff her way through that! So when he bolted the stable door and returned the bridle to its appropriate hook a moment later, his brows still raised in silent interrogation, it was to find Shannon facing him staunchly.

In lieu, she attempted to give a knowledgeable smile, but this was so pointedly ignored when Mark turned on his heel and strode for the door in such long-legged determination that Shannon, her face flaming and her temper seething at his deliberate snub, had no option but to break into an undignified trot in order to keep pace with him. The wind sweeping across the landscape, causing the trees to lean and sway majestically and the grass to bow down in rippling waves of green as the Land Rover cut its way over open paddocks and wooded slopes, cooled Shannon's cheeks and temper, but long before they had reached their destination it had penetrated her clothing to the extent that she was forced to hug her jacket closer to her slender form and fold her arms across her midriff so that she could tuck her exposed hands within the superficial warmth.

Shannon intercepted his glance balefully. What business was it of his what she wore? The expenses incurred by her father's illness had precluded any more expensive covering-especially one of the type he, was wearing so inconsequentially. In turn his eyes halted significantly for a second on the arms that were folded about her so protectively and his lip curled sardonically. But when he did, his words came as a complete surprise.

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Don't they mind you being away from home for long periods at a time? For a time all Shannon could do was to stare at him blankly, so unexpected had been the questions, but then she bit at her lip and tore her gaze away to concentrate unseeingly on the sheep they were passing. She hadn't intended that it should sound that way, but she wasn't all that interested in putting forth any lengthy explanations either. Let him think what he liked! She was too aware that she would soon have other matters to worry her now they had begun making their way towards a set of wooden yards in the near distance where the red and white coated cattle were churning up clouds of dust as they protested both vocally and physically at the curtailment of their freedom.

Shannon's brows arched expressively. Wincing at the slam of the door when it closed, Shannon hesitantly alighted from her own side to stand staring at the amount of activity taking place within the wooden enclosure. She found herself holding an expensive leather-covered notebook with a small gold pencil inserted in its appropriate niche. Just make sure you don't lose that one too, eh? With the notebook pushed deep into her pocket, Shannon stood shivering indecisively where he had left her, totally unsure of her surroundings and wholly unconscious that her bewilderment was visible.

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  • How could Guy have thought she would be able to bluff her way through all this? Get yourself down here. Do you always stand that far away when you're being taught something? It was bad enough just having him around, without his baiting her all the time as well. A firm hand gripping her shoulder had her swinging around warily as Mark nodded towards the two men. Correctly surmising there would be no chance of a reprieve when it was clearly assumed she would know what to do, she crossed the yard with reluctant and faltering steps to where the men were working and stood hovering by the fire as they released one branded calf and replaced it with another.

    Slowly she angled the iron between. Up here. Don't roast the poor little blighter! The boss'll skin you alive if he finds you doing that to any of his stud cattle. I hope I didn't hurt him too much. So apprehensive was she of doing the same thing again that it took three attempts before she had managed to put a reasonably distinguishable mark on the next sufferer, and turning to replace the iron in the fire she found Mark observing her actions silently, long fingers resting lightly on slim hips and an unfathomable expression on his face as the calf with the distorted brand sped past in front of him.

    Quickly she dragged her gaze away and resolutely withdrew the iron from the fire as soon as Tony had another one ready for her and, with him whispering helpful instructions, this time managed to brand the animal almost legibly without blistering its hide too much in the process. And that provided the routine for the next hour or more, although Shannon was positive she could have achieved far more satisfactory results had she not had to perform the task under Mark's ever watchful eye. She was conscious of his presence the, whole time and, consequently, found herself fumbling on many occasions when she was sure that, had he not been there, she could have produced far more pleasing results.

    As it was she still continued to burn some and blotched others, while only a very small percentage of those she attended to were fortunate enough to escape with a reasonable identification singed on to their coats. She had even managed to scorch her own fingers by grabbing the iron too near the heated end when, because she had been too busy looking to see if Mark was still observing them so carefully, she had tripped and come close to branding Tony instead.

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    Shannon didn't need the sun to warm her, she had generated enough nervous heat of her own and had already stripped off her jacket and sweater, and rolled the sleeves of her shirt up past her elbows. Sitting back against the stockyard rails with her knees drawn up before her, she gratefully accepted a mug of steaming black tea from Tony's outsirriched hand and wiped the back of one wrist across her lightly perspiring forehead, wishing she had thought to bring her cigarettes along.

    She could certainly do with onright now!



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