Sneak Peeks

The greatest risk of all is love … read a Sneak Peek from Snowy Mountains Cattleman by Alissa Callen


The greatest risk of all is love … read a Sneak Peek from Snowy Mountains Cattleman by Alissa Callen

A woman’s journey of self-discovery meets Bundilla’s small-town charm and an intriguing post-World War II mystery in this captivating romance from bestselling Australian author Alissa Callen.

The greatest risk of all is love …

Interior stylist Grace Davenport has come to the mountains for solitude and a place to heal after her parents’ death. Returning to their beloved town of Bundilla, she plans to restore a local bluestone mansion in honour of their memory. She’ll just be there for the summer, until she figures out her next step.

Rowan Parker never used to think twice about taking risks until his love for a woman blinded him to all common sense. Now, between his cattle farm in the high country and his work as a stonemason, there’s no room in his life for further mistakes. But when he meets the beautiful but reserved new owner of the historic mansion he’s been hired to rebuild, he realises his best-laid plans have run aground.

Together, Grace and Rowan work to bring the mansion back to life. But when they uncover a hidden trove of post-WWII secrets about the house’s former inhabitants, their quest to find answers draws them ever closer. And just when the stone rubble around them begins to resemble a home, a landslide threatens all that Rowan and Grace have rebuilt. With their futures as unstable as the mountainside, each must fight for what they really want, even if it means losing everything…

Snowy Mountains Cattleman

Grace Davenport had two choices, but she wasn’t ready to choose either.

She eased her foot off the accelerator to buy time as the road she’d been on since dawn climbed the sharp incline of a hill. When her car reached the spot where the black bitumen curved over the crest, there could be no turning back.

In her rear-view mirror she caught a last glimpse of the rural town she’d driven through nestled on the edge of the treeless Monaro plain. It didn’t matter if her car held some of her most precious possessions, that her Sydney apartment was rented or that a colleague was running her interior stylist business, a single U-turn would send her back through Cooma’s wide main street, then on to Canberra and finally home.

Her hand left the steering wheel to hover over the indicator so she could pull over. Home. The pitch in her stomach reminded her she no longer had such a place. The parents she’d loved were gone. Her every dream had been blown away by the wind that had scattered their ashes over the pale sand of their favourite beach. First kidney cancer had stolen her mother, and then her father’s grief had triggered a heart attack. All it had taken was seven days to dismantle a close-knit family and a lifetime of happiness.

Grace secured her hand back around the steering wheel. She’d driven this road on purpose and the hill crest she’d been waiting for was seconds away. It was time. She had to make a decision: return to the world she knew or drive forwards into the unknown.

Chest tight, she held her breath as her car topped the rise. Everything seemed to still. There was no grief, no loss, just the first look at a distant vista of rugged peaks. Last winter when she’d made this drive with her parents the Snowy Mountains had worn a mantle of pristine snow. Now they were bathed in golden sunlight. Serene, rugged and immovable, they called to her.

Without thought, she pressed her foot on the accelerator and sped down the hill. It was impossible to reclaim what she’d lost, but she could do all that she could to live the life that had been cut short for her parents. As much as her mother and father had enjoyed the beach house she’d bought for them, they’d planned to spend their twilight years in a small town that reminded them of their English village childhoods. She scanned the mountains that now appeared a hazy blue green. On the far-off western slopes, they’d found the perfect place––a little book town called Bundilla.

She settled deeper into her seat and, keeping her eyes on the peaks, readied herself for a long and winding drive. Turning back was no longer an option.


Hours later, with only a brief stop for fuel, Grace passed the WELCOME TO BUNDILLA sign. Despite the ache in her lower back and a non-negotiable need for solitude, her journey wasn’t over. She had keys, food and wine to collect, in that order.

A dust-covered white ute approached, the grey-haired male driver lifting a hand in greeting. Grace hesitated and the car passed before she could do the same. On her last visit she’d discovered that the locals waved to everyone, even out-of-towners. While her parents had returned such gestures with enthusiasm, she hadn’t been as comfortable. Even when she wasn’t preoccupied with work, social skills weren’t exactly her forte.

She had no problem conversing about fabric textures and what rugs might suit what hardwood floor, but when it came to casual chitchat, or answering questions about herself, she always felt uneasy. She took the first turn right and banished the schoolyard memories of her English accent being mocked and the taunts about being a whingeing Pom.

A graceful historic building with columns appeared on her left. The old post office was a landmark she remembered along with the red brick clock tower that she could see at the end of the street. Last winter the branches of the Manchurian pears that ran along the footpaths had been bare. Now their summer-green leaves waved in the breeze as if in welcome.

She slowed as she passed the vintage charity shop that she’d spent hours rummaging through. Bundilla also had a regular charity shop with clothes and toys but this one specialised in collectibles and bric-a-brac with all proceeds going to the local hospital. Tucked away in a corner she’d found a perfect duck-egg blue lamp for a living room she’d been styling. Not that she’d been decorating anything of late. It was an effort to even match her socks.

The GPS indicated that she’d soon arrive at the real estate office and she stopped to let two girls cross the road. The younger sister wore a white dress with pink-and-brown cowgirl boots, and she skipped as she pointed towards the park that formed a cool oasis beside the library. The spring in the child’s step only magnified Grace’s bone-deep weariness. She ignored the uncertainty that would cause her to second-guess her decision to leave the city and instead focused on finding a parking space.

While the street had plenty of empty car spots, the ones directly in front of the real estate office were occupied. A group of three men and one woman chatting outside the building were most likely the owners of the row of utes and four-wheel drives. A tan-and-black kelpie wearing a blue collar with gold lettering sat beside a farmer who wore a wide-brimmed hat. She’d learnt the name of the working dog breed on her previous trip.

Grace parked and left her car to the sound of deep masculine laughter as the local wearing a blue shirt hugged the brunette beside him. While Grace couldn’t see their faces, the way the woman embraced him and then kept her arm around his waist spoke of affection and familiarity. Grace looked away, blanking out the long-buried yearning to mean something to someone.

Her lacklustre small talk wasn’t the only reason why she was single. Her English parents had sacrificed everything to give her a better life in Australia. She’d worked late nights, weekends and holidays to build her career so she could provide them with everything they’d gone without. Loneliness had been a small price to pay for making the people she loved happy.

She glanced at the man whose easy laughter had made her long to do something spontaneous and out of character like take a day off or dance in the rain. His hair was a sun-streaked tawny brown and his broad shoulders stretched the cotton of his blue shirt that hung loose over faded jeans. He half turned and she caught a glimpse of a tanned, chiselled profile. She again looked away.

Just as well she’d come to Bundilla to rebuild her life and not to socialise. She was far from an expert, but men who looked as good as he did usually had an ego to match. Her best friend, Aubrey, was always telling her she’d catch more bees with honey than vinegar. Not that she was ever rude, but flattery, let alone flirting, wasn’t something she’d ever fully understood or seen the point of. She’d once spent two hours of her life that she’d never get back listening to an investment banker run her through his share portfolio over dinner. She didn’t have time to waste on shallow conversations, no matter how gorgeous a guy might be.

The local with the felt hat grinned as he slapped the back of the man she’d heard laugh before striding away. The woman and her remaining two companions walked along the street before stopping outside a double-storey pub trimmed in grey wrought iron. The man in the blue shirt held the door open for the others to enter. Instead of following, he waited as if giving the kelpie who had accompanied them time to decide if he would too head inside. As she drew closer, a waft of beer and an air-conditioned breeze washed over her. For a second, she thought the local stared in her direction, but then the dog and the man disappeared into The Bushranger.

Thankful that she now had the footpath to herself, Grace lowered her tight shoulders. Keys, food, wine, she reminded herself as her steps dragged. The air pressing against her skin was again warm and she lifted her heavy hair from her nape. If this was a taste of a mountain summer, she’d need a haircut, something that hadn’t been a priority for the year she’d been caring for her mother. She’d also need a cooler outfit than the black long-sleeved top and skinny jeans that had become her go-to clothes.

To her relief, the visit to the real estate office to collect her cottage keys took less than five minutes. The helpful and chatty receptionist didn’t expect Grace to reply much in return and she was soon back in the sunshine. She breathed in the aroma of coffee coming from somewhere along the main street and added caffeine to the top of her to-do list. But instead of turning to go in search of the café, she suddenly stopped. Was that a kelpie sitting near her car?

The dog wagged his tail. His blue and gold collar looked familiar and she glanced towards the pub to check whether the locals she’d seen him with earlier were around. But apart from two women strolling towards her with sleek grey bobs wearing similar outfits of black trousers and white shirts, there were no other pedestrians.

Grace stared at the kelpie but didn’t move closer. She’d had a sweet chocolate labrador called Cocoa growing up but as an adult her dog-whispering skills were a little rusty.

The kelpie’s tail again thumped. The gold letters on his collar spelled out the name Bundy. One thing that had changed in the small town was that the water tower now sported a mural. While she hadn’t paid the painting more than a fleeting glance as she’d driven past—she’d been too tired—she had a feeling that a kelpie with a collar like this one had been part of the design.

An impression confirmed when a quiet voice said beside her, ‘You might recognise Bundy from the mural.’

Grace turned to the two women who she could now see had to be identical twins. Neither wore a smile but their eyes were clear and kind. As for the seriousness of their stony faces, she wasn’t intimidated. She saw a similar expression in the mirror every morning.

She nodded.

The sister whose sleek grey bob was a little longer in length studied her before she spoke. ‘Staying in Bundilla long?’

Grace took her time to answer. She wasn’t used to strangers being interested in her business, but there was something about the elderly woman’s steady stare that reassured her the question had only been asked with the best of intentions. ‘How did you know I wasn’t passing through?’

A brief smile tilted the other twin’s lips. ‘Just like how Bundy here knows you’re staying at least two nights.’ She glanced at the keys Grace held. ‘All of the holiday rentals have a minimum two-night stay.’

Grace didn’t immediately answer. Her mother had always said nothing much was missed in a small town. It was this sense of community and kinship that her parents had wished to return to.

She glanced at the kelpie who continued to watch her. ‘Why would Bundy be interested in how long I’m staying?’

The sisters swapped a quick look before the sibling with the shorter bob replied. ‘Bundy’s a local legend. He calls the town home and spends his time with whoever he pleases.’

The second sister gestured towards the kelpie. ‘By the way he’s sitting next to your car, you’re the one he wants to tag along with next.’

Grace fought a frown. She had no proper home to take the kelpie to, let alone any food for either of them. Not to mention what would the dog do with her when she wasn’t intending to leave her cottage?

The older woman continued. ‘I’m Millicent and this is my sister, Beatrice. Bundy’s stayed with us many times and we can assure you he’s no trouble.’

‘He was with a group of locals earlier …’

Beatrice nodded. ‘Now he’s with you.’

Grace met her gaze. ‘He’ll be much happier with someone else.’

They all looked across at the kelpie, who had his amber stare fixed on Grace.

Millicent said softly, ‘He doesn’t want to go with anyone else.’

‘If you call into the grocery or rural store,’ added Beatrice, her tone gentle, ‘they’ll give you a bag of the dogfood he likes.’

As if Bundy coming with her was a foregone conclusion, each sister gave her a nod and continued on their way.

Grace narrowed her eyes at the kelpie. ‘Really?’

Bundy’s doggy grin didn’t waver.

‘I don’t even know if the cottage has power. There’s also bound to be rats.’

The kelpie left the footpath to stand beside her passenger-side door.

Grace shook her head at her poor word choice. No doubt Bundy would consider vermin in the roof a good thing.

Surely someone would come over to say what a bad idea this was? But there was no one else in sight.

She rubbed her tight forehead before moving to clear room on the cluttered back seat for the dog to sit. He jumped straight into the car. She slowly closed the door.

That morning, she might have had two choices. Now she had none. In under three minutes she’d become the temporary custodian of Bundilla’s living kelpie treasure.


Rowan Parker had been waiting all his life to become a third wheel.

He looked across the pub table in the outdoor beer garden to where his younger sister and best mate sat close together and didn’t try to hide his grin. Clancy and Heath might have just come off a long-haul flight from Paris but neither looked jet-lagged.

Clancy, with her red-brown hair and sweet smile, had always drawn stares. But now it was as though she was lit from within. A table to their left filled with tradies in their fluoro work gear had been sneaking frequent glances. He didn’t blame them. His sister radiated joy and happiness.

He kept his smile in place even though the contentment within him faded. When they’d lost their parents four years ago after their cruise boat capsized in a flooded Budapest river, Clancy hadn’t appeared so radiant. He lifted his beer and took a long swallow. The knowledge that he hadn’t been there for her hadn’t lost any of its power. He’d been such a fool.

He realised too late that Heath’s blue gaze was examining his face. Even before Heath had left to paint a mural on a German skyscraper six weeks ago, he’d been giving him concerned looks.

Rowan forced a smile and made sure his tension didn’t show in his voice. ‘You have no idea how glad I am you’re both home. Every work boot I own is either buried or in pieces.’

Clancy laughed. ‘I thought the hug you gave me outside was because you were happy to see me. You just want me to take you shopping.’

Rowan grimaced. He’d rather get bucked off his cantankerous stockhorse than step inside a store.

Clancy patted his arm. ‘Monet will soon calm down and stop stealing your shoes. Look at Primrose.’

Rowan raised both brows. There was no hope for Heath’s hyperactive kelpie puppy if Primrose was Clancy’s measure of a quiet dog. The young golden retriever might technically be out of the puppy phase, but he had no doubt she was the instigator behind the seek-and-destroy mission waged on his wardrobe the second his sister had left.

It wasn’t only new boots he needed; his untucked shirt was hiding a rip across the backside of his now only pair of jeans. Just as well Clancy had only been gone three weeks.

Heath chuckled. ‘Sorry, Clance, I’m with Rowan on that one.’

Clancy’s eyes grew dreamy. ‘I can’t wait to see all their doggy faces. I loved walking in the Swiss Alps but I’ve missed them so much.’

Clancy had always been a small-town girl. There was no place she’d rather be than running her peony flower farm and riding in the high country she loved. Now she and Heath were finally together she was discovering a world outside of Bundilla, but their family farm of Ashcroft would always be her, and now Heath’s, home. Rowan’s grip tightened on his beer. A home he’d left his sister to run alone when she’d been vulnerable, all because he’d allowed a woman’s sensual beauty to blind him to who she really was. He avoided Heath’s gaze as his best mate again studied him.

The buzzer at the centre of their table beeped and flashed red to indicate that their lunch was ready.

Heath clasped his shoulder as they went to collect their counter meals. ‘Let me know when you’re heading out on Goliath. I’ll come too.’

Rowan nodded. A ride into the granite ridges where the wind carried away all regret sounded pretty good right now. He glanced at the front door as they passed. He wasn’t usually so on edge but earlier his testosterone had had a moment that he’d vowed to never have again.

When he’d held the door open for Bundy, a woman on the street dressed in black had caught his attention. All he’d glimpsed was a cloud of long dark hair, pale skin, large eyes and an unsmiling mouth, but that had been enough. The woman had made his blood quicken and his lungs still.

He took his time to reach for his plate of chicken schnitzel that sat on the counter. No longer did he have any appetite. After he’d lost his head over Eloise he’d vowed to never react on a purely physical level to anyone again.

This time when he passed the pub door on the way to his table, he looked straight ahead. Acting on impulse and not taking the time to think through consequences were things he refused to do anymore. He owed it to Clancy, Heath, and all the others he’d let down when consumed with Eloise and then again when he’d fled overseas to get himself together.

Even though he’d dodged a bullet when Eloise had run off with a cashed-up newcomer to town, it had taken time to work through his self-loathing at being so easily fooled. He’d also needed to admit that since his parents had died, chasing an adrenaline rush had been less about the thrill and more about escaping his grief.

He returned to his seat. The only thing he could be grateful for was that the woman he’d seen would be a tourist travelling through town. He wouldn’t have forgotten if their paths had crossed before. His reaction and lapse in control was simply a warning that he had more work to do on becoming a new and improved version of himself. He concentrated on listening to Clancy and Heath’s travel anecdotes.

When they’d finished their meals, Clancy glanced around the beer garden. ‘Where did Bundy go?’

Rowan looked past her shoulder to where he’d last seen the kelpie. ‘He was over at the corner table with Ned so he probably followed him out.’

Ned was a family friend who helped Heath’s mother run the family property of Hawks Ridge whenever Heath was away painting murals.

Heath’s attention didn’t leave Rowan. ‘Ned said Bundy’s spent some time with you?’

‘He did but was waiting on the back of my ute this morning to come to town.’

Clancy smiled as she came to her feet. ‘He must have known you were meeting us for lunch.’

Rowan also left his seat. Heath’s stare was a little too intent as he finished his beer. Many locals believed that Bundy had a sixth sense. It wasn’t unusual for him to turn up wherever he was needed. Over the years he’d kept widows company, sat by the beds of ill children and accompanied a bride who’d lost her father down the aisle. ‘No doubt.’

In his case he was sure Bundy only stayed to help him with the cattle work that he’d been doing this past week to get ready for when he’d be working on his next stonemason project. Ashcroft no longer had any working dogs. It had been on Rowan’s mind to get a pup to train but after babysitting Monet and Primrose maybe it was an adult dog he needed.

After more hugs were exchanged, Rowan left Clancy and Heath and headed for the grocery store. Now that they were home they’d live in the main farmhouse while he’d move back into the renovated coach house at the end of the garden. He’d left the homestead fridge fully stocked but the fridge over at his place was empty.

The sun warm on his shoulders, Rowan strolled along the main street, his tension ebbing. A white sedan honked its horn as it drove past. He waved at the identical occupants. The sisters were on their way out of town. As he walked by a bright green car his steps quickened.

The colourful vehicle belonged to Cynthia Herbert, the town’s equally flamboyant and notorious matchmaker. Except ever since her teenage daughter had turned the tables on her and set her up with the town’s longest-serving bachelor, Dan, Cynthia had less time for meddling. But that didn’t mean he could relax whenever he came to town.

Conscious of someone watching him through the front window of the nearby gift shop, Rowan crossed the street. He needed to ask Clancy for a list of who was in the quilting club so he’d know who to be wary of. The rumours of the quilting group taking over Cynthia’s matchmaking mantle were most likely true. There were only a handful of unattached men in town, and it wasn’t his imagination that since he’d returned from overseas, not only did more people smile at him, they were also more interested in his private life. It wouldn’t be concerning if almost every person who waylaid him for a chat wasn’t female.

He’d almost reached the grocery store when his mobile rang. The name of a local deer farmer who had a talent for turning rusted metal into lifelike sculptures filled the screen. Taite too was single and determined to remain that way.

‘Hi,’ Rowan said, jogging the last few paces to the grocery store so he could duck inside the sliding door. Mrs Wright had exited the gift shop and now stood on the footpath looking up and down the street.

‘You sound out of breath,’ Taite said, tone hopeful.

Taite loved his rugby and was always trying to recruit Rowan for a gym session or run even though it was the off-season. Thanks to a stress fracture of his left leg last spring while skiing in France, he had a legitimate excuse to not put his body on the line. No one could keep up with Taite’s agility or strength. A simple jog would probably lead to heart failure.

‘Don’t get too excited. Desperate times call for desperate measures.’ Rowan rubbed at the dull ache in his leg. ‘I’m not out of breath. I’m as fit as a mallee bull.’

‘That would be a lame mallee bull.’ Taite chuckled. ‘The only thing to get you past a walk is either being chased by Mrs Moore’s goose or Mrs Moore herself.’

Rowan peered through the glass door. ‘It’s Mrs Wright.’

‘You wonder why I run. It’s impossible to ask a moving target to dinner.’

‘I might join you.’

‘Anytime. I’ve been going out on Overflow Road.’

Rowan silenced his groan as the doors opened for two teenage girls to walk through. Overflow Road was gravel and all uphill. ‘Actually, I’ll take my chances with the quilting ladies.’

‘You always were a risk-taker.’

When the teenagers shot him flirty looks as they passed, he turned to study the community noticeboard on the back wall that advertised the upcoming Bundilla summer book festival. He was far too old for either of them.

‘Trust me, not anymore.’

‘I can’t tempt you into going mountain biking this weekend at Thredbo?’

Rowan went to say yes and then reconsidered. His leg wasn’t up to it plus he was supposed to have retired from thrill-seeking. ‘Thanks, but I’ve got farm work to do before I start on the old Russell mansion next week.’

‘Good luck. That place will be a big job. Let me know if you change your mind about the run or mountain biking.’

‘Will do.’

Rowan ended the call and, not bothering with a basket, strode along the grocery store aisles. With his arms full of items, he made a beeline for an empty checkout. Heels had clicked on the floor behind him as he’d collected a bottle of milk and he wasn’t hanging around to see who it was.

Once outside, he didn’t slow his pace as he strode along to where he’d left his dark merlot-red Land Cruiser parked outside the real estate office. That would teach him not to buy a white vehicle so that he blended in with just about every other Bundilla car. Everyone knew when he was in town.

After he’d loaded his grocery bag into the passenger seat he scanned the street for any glimpse of Bundy. As chaotic as it had been having him to stay the past week—the kelpie, Monet and Primrose had wrestled continuously—he now missed having Bundy by his side. Wherever he had moved on to next he hoped it wouldn’t be long until he saw him again.

Instead of driving the regular way home, Rowan took the road that carried him over one of the wooden bridges that crisscrossed the flood plain. He’d do a drive by the Russell place. A heavy chain and padlock would secure the front gate shut but he’d be able to see from the driveway if the left-side wall had crumbled any further since his last inspection.

Not that he knew exactly when he’d be starting the restoration. The new owner hadn’t replied to his last email, which wasn’t out of the ordinary. She’d simply be busy. From the woman’s succinct messages he knew nothing more about her except she’d purchased the derelict mansion sight unseen. Her plan was to focus on the stonework first before she brought in a builder. She obviously wasn’t in any rush to make the place liveable.

The ute indicator sounded as he took the next turn left to where the valley floor had given way to the gentle undulation of foothills that stretched into granite peaks. A buzz of anticipation filled him. While he was foremost a cattleman, there was no doubt the DNA of a distant Scottish stonemason ran through his veins.

For years the mysterious mansion had fascinated him. Not because it was built of bluestone quarried from a nearby hillside, or because it was said to be both haunted and cursed as none of the last generation had married. His interest had been piqued because whenever he’d been inside something about the layout had felt off and had niggled at him.

Through the trees he made out the angular shapes of chimneys and the rusted planes of a vast roofline. When he reached the usually locked entryway, the gate was open and the chain missing. Without slowing, he continued towards the house to follow the tyre tracks imprinted in the dust. Not only had someone disregarded the large NO TRESPASSING sign that the new owner had organised to be put on the fence, but they’d cut the padlock and stolen the chain. He’d make sure whoever the culprit was, they weren’t intent on doing any harm. The old house had already been damaged enough.

When black flashed in his peripheral vison, he didn’t think anything of it. Crows liked the abandoned building as much as teenagers did at Halloween or whenever there was a full moon. But no sooner did he register that the shape had legs, he noted an unfamiliar car over near a jacaranda tree to his left.

He parked beside the vehicle. He had no doubt the dog he’d seen was Bundy. He also had no doubt the car beside him wasn’t local. The sticker on the back windscreen displayed the name of a Sydney car dealership. He left his driver’s seat and walked around to the front of the mansion to meet Bundy as he bounded through the overgrown garden towards him.

‘Hi, mate.’ Rowan ruffled the kelpie’s neck. ‘I’m happy to see you too.’

He glanced at the corner of the house where he’d first glimpsed Bundy. He wasn’t superstitious but he had a bad feeling about who the kelpie had accompanied here. Bundy turned to look in the same direction, his wagging tail thumping Rowan’s leg.

Even before his brain fully catalogued the details of the figure who rounded the house corner, his gut knew it was the woman he’d seen earlier. If Bundy was with her, she also wasn’t passing through; she’d have a holiday rental nearby.

He locked his shoulders and his resolve. This time he wasn’t reacting to her with anything but mild and curious interest. No matter if every step that brought her closer reinforced how stunning she was.

The stranger wore no makeup and in the full daylight her flawless skin was pale and smooth. In contrast, her windblown hair was a messy and rich brown that spilled over her shoulders. But it was her mouth that he had trouble looking away from. The longer he stared at the sombre curve the more he wanted to make her smile.

The woman stopped a body length away. While her expression was unreadable, just like with the high-country brumbies he sensed an ingrained caution and wariness. But when her chin tilted and her cool hazel gaze met his, any impression of vulnerability vanished.

‘Afternoon,’ she said, her voice as chilly as the snow that capped the winter mountain peaks.

Rowan grinned. ‘Afternoon.’ He couldn’t have asked for a more perfect reaction. Whatever attraction he felt towards her was one-sided. The reminder he wasn’t irresistible would do his male ego good. ‘Can I help you?’

She shook her head as she lifted a hand to brush her tousled hair away from her cheek.

When the silence lengthened, he dipped his head towards the mansion, not hiding his reaction to the graffiti or broken windows. He hated seeing the once stately house in such disrepair. ‘This is private property. You can understand why the owner isn’t keen on people trespassing.’

When his attention returned to the woman, her eyes had widened. But when she turned to study the vandalised front facade all he could view was her profile.

The seconds stretched before she replied. ‘It is a shame there’s been so much damage.’ The subtle lilt of an English accent softened her voice and her tone was now more weary than frosty. ‘I know this is private property … you see, it’s my private property.’

Snowy Mountains Cattleman

On Sale 02.02.2022

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