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Wherever Jessica went, people watched her. Like those two teenage boys leaning on the fence, Akubra hats pulled down to shade their eyes. One of them dangled a cigarette in careless fingers; the other swigged beer from a stubby. Neither was watching her now, but she hadn’t missed their gawking, nor their voices barely elevated over the noise of bellowing cattle, shouts and truck engines.

Wow! See that really tall one?

Bloody hell, yeah.

How’d you reckon she kisses a guy? On her knees?

They laughed and, when she came closer, faced the yard to watch the cattle as if they had said nothing.

Jessica walked past them to the gate, glaring at their straw-covered backs. Well, I bloody heard you. She was used to it, anyway.

It hadn’t been the worst thing people said about her. They hadn’t said the words ugly, or creepy, or freak, but she was used to hearing those words, too.

They went into a little hard spot inside her where she scrunched up the hurt and forgot it. She might look like a freak, but when she helped John Braithwaite and his mates from the Rivervale Stud Farm at a cattle show and Angus went into one of his fits, they still needed her to get him into the truck without spooking him. No one else could do that. No one knew how she did it, and no one should ever know. Because no one was crazy enough to get into a pen with a stroppy bull, right?

Well, we’ll see about that.

She grasped the top of the gate with both hands, stepped onto the middle bar and swung her foot over. Jumped. Landed in sun-baked mud churned with cloven hoof prints and cow pats.

At least when Angus looked at her he didn’t hide his dislike. He rolled a beady eye and blew a gust of hay-scented air from his nostrils. He stiffened, all fifteen hundred-odd kilograms of Brahman bull-flesh of him. Then lowered his head, horns poised.

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