Outback Thunder(9)

By: Ann B. Harrison



"When you get your butt in the saddle I will be. You have ten minutes before briefing. Make sure you're there. It won't look good if the boss is slacking off in bed enjoying herself while the workers get the job done, will it. Oh and excuse the pun." He stood looking down at her with a smart grin on his face.

"Get out," she screamed with frustration

His footsteps faded away and then her bedroom door slammed. Her shoulders slumped.

He had seen her playing with herself. Fuck how bad was that? Should she finish the job in the shower or would that be pushing her luck. Damn it, she had time and didn't need to spend the rest of the day in the saddle so horny with each movement threatening to send her off the edge. Zoe quickly went to her bathroom and stripped off.

***

She grabbed her old hat from the hook at the backdoor, an apple from the bowl on the kitchen bench and ran down the back steps. The men were milling around the barn in a group when she arrived. Greeting them and swapping pats on the back, she made contact with old friends. After a few minutes of 'my how you've grown up Zoe,' and 'looking hot,' comments, Jonas snapped.

"If you have quite finished with the meet and greet, perhaps we can get on with it. Everyone has been waiting for you, Zoe." Jonas stared at her.

"Sure, knock yourself out, Jonas." She smiled at the snorts of laughter that met her comment.

"Okay, this is the first year we’ll be mustering with a helicopter. That in itself will give us a bit of grief until we all get used to a different way of working." Jonas looked around and nodded when murmurs of agreement met his announcement. "To make things easier we will be working in teams and each team will have a radio so I can keep in contact with them. Pete has a list of the guys and who is to lead that team. I’ll be in the air doing the search and spot." He paused for breath. "This year the mustering should be easier on all of you. I'm going out shortly with Bran to do a quick recon of the area so you have an idea of where you are headed tomorrow. I need all of you to make sure your gear and bedding is ready for you to start out. Any last minute things need to be dealt with today." His gaze found Zoe's. "If I hear any weak excuses for not being ready to ride tomorrow, you're fired, understand?"

A few of the guys nodded their heads and a couple of the older hands laughed good- naturedly. Zoe shook her head. The guy was being an ass already and it was her first day back on the job.

"So, Jonas. Are you going to be checking that we have our girth straps done up tight and our teeth brushed as well?"

The men sniggered as he glared at her. "If that is what you want Zoe, I will. What we are doing is making sure everyone is safe, not something I call trivial. This is a dangerous country and we’ll be away from home for days at a time. Forgive me if you think that I'm overdoing it."

The heat ran up Zoe's face and she dropped her head.

"So if you guys are right, go check your stuff and make sure you are ready to ride tomorrow at dawn."

They shuffled away and Zoe turned back to the house.

"Zoe, wait." She glanced at Jonas coming toward her. "Look, don't make this more difficult in front of the men, okay. I have to make sure safety is the priority here and you know why. Personal feelings aside, I don't want to be liable for an accident that was easily preventable with a little forward planning."

"You weren't to blame for my parents’ deaths, Jonas."

"I know that but it could so easily have been prevented. I brought you a new swag too. It's in the store shed. Take a first aid kit to add to your bag as well. I'm taking Bran for a look to see where most of the cattle are and see if the rivers are up. We should be back for dinner." He elbowed her. "Your turn to cook by the way."

He walked away and she shook her head.

That sneaky mongrel.

He'd show him. She had learned to cook pretty well in London, taking classes in her spare time. After last night's rather boring offering of steak, eggs and chips Bran had cooked, they would have something restaurant quality on the table.

Sighing, she walked over to the stables and looked for Midnight. She hadn't been down to see him and felt guilty for neglecting the horse she had broken in as a youngster. He pricked up his ears when she called his name. "Hey, buddy, I've missed you."

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